House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s partisan short-term spending bill failed Friday afternoon as 21 hard-right Republicans voted against their leader’s plan, delivering yet another resounding blow to the embattled speaker. With just over a day remaining before the government would be forced to shut down, Friday’s 232-198 vote leaves little hope to keep agencies open after midnight on Saturday — and leaves little room for McCarthy to try to lay blame for a shutdown on President Joe Biden or Democrats rather than on Republican dysfunction.
The speaker had rejected a bipartisan plan from the Senate and opted instead to try to pass a partisan stopgap that faced stiff opposition from some of his own members even though it was loaded up with Republican priorities. McCarthy, faced with the prospect that some of his members might seek his ouster, reportedly wanted to show his hard-right members that he did all he could to secure passage of their priorities.
The McCarthy plan would have kept the government running until the end of October, but it also called for a nearly 30% temporary cut to spending levels for discretionary programs outside of defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and disaster relief. It would also have set up a commission to address the deficit and explore changes to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs.
Those measures failed to win over hardliners.
“This was a ‘no confidence’ vote,” Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, who opposed the House stopgap, told CNN afterwards.
McCarthy knew the plan would fail — and it also had no chance of passing the Senate or being signed by President Joe Biden. The White House had threatened to veto the House bill and criticized House Republicans for “playing partisan games” and reneging on a deal reached months ago.
“Extreme House Republicans are now tripling down on their demands to eviscerate programs millions of hardworking families count on—proposing a devastating 30% cut to law enforcement, Meals on Wheels, Head Start, and more,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “They are breaking their word, abandoning the bipartisan deal that two-thirds of them voted for just four months ago, and marching our country toward an Extreme Republican Shutdown that will damage our economy and national security. The path forward to fund the government has been laid out by the Senate with bipartisan support—House Republicans just need to take it.”
House Republicans are not taking it. McCarthy signaled Friday morning he wasn’t about to cut a bipartisan deal. Asked about the prospect of working with Democrats, McCarthy bristled and labeled that “surrender.”
What’s next: The House is expected to hold additional votes on Saturday, but it’s not yet clear what they’ll consider. At a 4 p.m. closed-door meeting of the House Republican conference, McCarthy reportedly laid out the party’s options: They could pass the partisan bill, try a “clean” continuing resolution to extend current funding with added disaster relief and dare Democrats to vote against it, swallow the bipartisan Senate plan and its Ukraine funding or shut the government down. That last option appears most likely.
The House will likely continue to vote on annual appropriations bills — it passed three on Thursday night — but the process of reconciling the House spending plans with the Senate’s could also drag on for weeks.
The Senate, meanwhile, continues to work on its bipartisan plan, but procedural delays by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky mean that legislation isn’t likely to be ready before the shutdown deadline and McCarthy isn’t likely to bring it to a vote.
Other options for resolving this showdown: The Senate plan may still be amended to include as much as $6 billion in border security funding, which might be enough to convince McCarthy to bring it to a vote, though doing so would probably trigger calls for his removal.
Moderate Republicans have also discussed signing onto a Democratic discharge petition to force a vote to reopen the government. None have done so yet, and the process would take nine days at minimum.
The bottom line: Barring some unexpected last-minute solution, the government will shut down Sunday at 12:01 a.m. ET. How long it stays shut down is now the big question. McCarthy could also still face a Republican attempt to remove him from the speaker’s job. October 13 — the next payday for federal workers and military members — may be the new deadline for a deal. “House Republicans are privately admitting that a government shutdown could last for at least two weeks, with pressure building to reopen before military service members are set to receive their next paychecks in mid-October,” The Washington Post’s Marianna Sotomayor reports.