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McCarthy buys time with budget bill

Congress temporarily averts a government shutdown

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (left) and Majority Whip Tom Emmer on Saturday at the U.S. Capitol Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

McCarthy buys time with budget bill

On Saturday, Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown that would have taken effect Sunday morning. But whether that’s something to celebrate—or something to assign blame for—may depend on who’s keeping score.

By a vote of 335-91, the House passed a resolution to fund the government for the next 45 days while lawmakers keep searching for common ground on the government’s spending priorities for the next fiscal year. Not only do Republicans and Democrats disagree on those, but the GOP majority in the House is also struggling to reach a consensus. The resolution gives House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., more time to negotiate within his party.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the powerful House Rules Committee and one of the leading voices in the conservative Freedom Caucus, voted against the bill. Moments after the vote, he didn’t seem surprised by the outcome.

“I think there’s plenty of blame to go around,” Roy said. “But at the end of the day, we are where we are and we have to go figure out how to continue to reduce spending and get our appropriations bills finished.”

Through Friday evening and into Saturday morning, McCarthy and Republicans struggled against time, trying to put together a short-term funding package that the entire caucus would support.

On Saturday morning, McCarthy and other GOP leaders said they tried flipping around a Rubik’s Cube of policy combinations. What about a temporary package that included border security and payments for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement? What about cutting down on aid for Ukraine? What about increasing Ukraine funding?

But fierce protest from a handful of members inside the GOP persisted. As many as 20 holdouts still refused to vote for the bill. Since Republicans hold the House majority by only four votes, that kind of opposition meant certain death for any bill too conservative for Democrats.

Among the dissenters: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., McCarthy’s loudest opponent in the House.

Gaetz and others wanted to see more substantial cuts to government spending, an increase to border security, and a commitment to pare down financial support of Ukraine. But more than that, the group wanted a return to passing individual appropriations bills instead of a bulk spending package.

“We are experiencing a rhythm that has put the American people $33 trillion in debt; we’re facing $2.2 trillion annual deficits,” Gaetz told CNBC on Friday night. “I don’t want a shutdown, but I know the only way to rescue ourselves from financial ruin is to pass single-subject spending bills that are able to be reviewed at a programmatic level.”

At about 10 a.m. on Saturday, Republican leaders met behind closed doors. By the time they came out, McCarthy announced they had abandoned attempts to win over GOP holdouts; they would instead bring a 45-day continuing resolution to the floor. Congress, he announced, would vote to continue to extend current spending levels.

The resolution closely mirrored a parallel one being developed by the Senate—but with one key difference. The House bill wouldn’t include funding for Ukraine. While the House and Senate worked into Saturday morning on their respective versions, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., urged McCarthy to bring the Senate version to the floor—a version he said Democrats would support. He criticized Republicans for the sudden shift in strategy and for creating their own version.

“They dropped a 70-page bill at the 11th hour and expect us to trust them and vote for it,” Jeffries said on the House floor.

At the conclusion, 91 Republicans voted against the measure along with a single Democrat, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., who objected to the removal of Ukraine funding. At 9 p.m. with just three hours to spare, the Senate also passed the bill in an 88-9 vote.

At a news conference following the House votes, McCarthy promised he would continue to work within his party to find common ground and fund the government in 2024. He noted that the House of Representatives had already passed several spending bills that the Senate has not taken up.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t have 218 votes,” McCarthy said when asked about the GOP members who would not vote for the package. “But look, one thing about me is I’m never giving up on America. At the end of the day, I believe we will get them back on board.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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