Welcome to National Journal!

Enjoy this premium "unlocked" content until October 1, 2023.


Shutdown worries intensify as House GOP struggles to unify over stopgap bill

The GOP's latest spending proposal to keep the government open won't get through the Senate—and might not even get through the House.

Rep. Byron Donalds (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
Sept. 18, 2023, 8:46 p.m.

Increasing public dissent within the House Republican Conference and a quickly approaching deadline to keep the government open are raising the odds of a government shutdown, despite Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s best efforts to keep his fractious conference together.

After a handful of rank-and-file House GOP members pitched a deal to fund the government through October—along with passing some Republican policy priorities—the speaker’s toughest critics lined up Monday to say they weren’t on board, even though some of their ideological allies helped write the short-term continuing resolution.

“The House should simply pass all 12 spending bills at the 2022 levels the speaker committed to in January and nearly every Republican voted for in April,” Rep. Bob Good, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said in a statement Monday announcing his opposition to the spending resolution.

McCarthy and House GOP leadership are in a jam. Stuck between the need to pass a bill funding government that the Democratic-led Senate will also pass and an emboldened, raucous right wing of the conference, House Republicans can’t seem to find consensus on their own version of a stopgap spending measure, much less unite behind a position ahead of talks with the Senate.

“It's hard to pass anything in this place,” McCarthy told reporters Monday. “We started out in a five-seat majority. I've got one member who's now resigned; we've got a couple of members who are out as well.”

With government funding set to run out Sept. 30, Rep. Nancy Mace described the chances of a shutdown as a “jump ball at this point.”

Though McCarthy exited his weekly leadership meeting on Monday upbeat, throughout the day more and more Republicans announced their opposition to the short-term spending bill. All the while, House GOP members sniped at one another—but mostly at McCarthy—on social media.

The proposed continuing resolution would fund the government until Oct. 31 and cut nondefense spending by 7.8 percent. The measure also includes much of H.R. 2, the border-security and immigration legislation the House passed earlier this year, though tougher requirements for employers to verify employee eligibility are left out. The continuing resolution does not contain additional aid money for Ukraine that’s been requested by the White House and supported by most Republicans.

The spending cuts and border language are nonstarters for Democrats in the House and Senate, meaning that the measure will likely only serve as a marker for what House Republicans can get through their conference, not for what any final legislation to keep the government funded will look like.

Rep. Byron Donalds, one of the chief architects of the proposed stopgap measure, told reporters Monday that passing the measure gives Republicans a chance to score a victory on border issues.

“This provides us an ability to really win on that point and also gives us an ability to go back and figure out the rest of our appropriations bills so we can get the job done for the American people,” Donalds said.

Members expect a floor vote on the spending bill Thursday. The chamber will likely try to take up the Defense Department appropriations bill Wednesday, after leadership was forced to pull a procedural vote on the measure last week amid pushback from conservative Republicans over broader complaints on government spending.

Donalds said he anticipates a vote on the continuing resolution even if there aren’t enough GOP votes to pass the measure. And McCarthy still has work to do. Despite Freedom Caucus members Donalds and Chip Roy, and caucus Chairman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania working on the weekend deal, House GOP firebrands lined up to oppose the measure after its announcement.

Conservative critics said the deal did not go far enough to cut spending and that any continuing resolution would preserve many of the Democrat-written policy riders from the previous annual spending bills. As of Monday afternoon, the list of GOP lawmakers objecting to the proposal had grown to more than a dozen.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was ousted from the Freedom Caucus earlier this year in part because of her alliance with McCarthy, is a “no” on the bill, saying it continues to fund the Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution of former President Trump.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has become one of McCarthy’s harshest critics, sparred with Donalds over the continuing resolution Monday on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

“The problem with the Donalds CR is that it gets the job done for Jack Smith!” Gaetz posted.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, the chairman of the centrist Main Street Caucus and one of the moderates who worked on the spending proposal, said he’s been “pushing back on some misinformation” since his bill was released.

“As we sit down and talk with members about what the bill actually does—which is, cuts government for 30 days and secures the border—that is a pretty hard message for conservatives to oppose,” Johnson said.

The Senate has not yet introduced an alternative continuing resolution, undercutting any argument from House leadership that the upper chamber is preparing to jam the House with its own stopgap measure. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor Monday that the House proposal “reads like a hard-right screed,” claiming it would never make it through the upper chamber. Schumer, though, did not mention work on a Senate continuing resolution.

Rep. Don Bacon, a GOP moderate in a competitive Nebraska district, said he was confident that a deal could be done but that it was time to negotiate with Democrats and the Senate on a bill that could reasonably pass Congress. Bacon said he is also concerned that, as House Republicans fight amongst themselves over a spending bill, they’ll be the ones to get blamed for any shutdown, and that holdouts are “digging a hole for the party.”

“I didn’t make up this quote, but I love it: 'Some people would vote against the Bible because there’s not enough Jesus in it,'" Bacon said. "And I think that’s what we see here. There’s some people who can’t get to ‘yes.’”

Welcome to National Journal!

Enjoy this featured content until October 1, 2023. Interested in exploring more
content and tools available to members and subscribers?


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.