House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the House will vote again on whether to consider the bill to fund the Pentagon as House Republicans showed signs of breaking an intraparty logjam that threatens a government shutdown in 10 days.
Talking to reporters after a lengthy party conference early Wednesday night, McCarthy said the House would vote Thursday on a rule to govern debate on the $826.2 billion defense bill. A similar vote Tuesday failed as five Republicans voted with all the House Democrats to sink the rule and prevent the bill from coming to the floor.
“I think we’ve got a plan to move forward, going to [the Department of Defense] and then going to a number of other appropriation bills,” McCarthy said. He added that he had won over two of the GOP holdouts in Tuesday’s vote.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) warned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) against using Democratic votes to pass annual funding bills that the Republican conference itself was unable to push over the finish line.
But McCarthy stopped short of saying the party had reached a broader agreement on a temporary stopgap funding bill or the overall number for annual spending on federal agencies and programs outside of Social Security and Medicare for 2024. The stopgap bill would need to be passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden by the end of Sept. 30 to avoid a shutdown.
“We’re very close,” he said of getting to agreement to on a bill to temporarily keep the government open. On the so-called topline spending figure, the overarching annual total for everything except Social Security and Medicare, he said, “We’re in a good place.”
With hard-line anti-spending members of his party revolting on the defense bill and threatening to ensure none of the funding bills pass the House, McCarthy has been faced with trying to find some middle ground on spending that would satisfy both party conservatives and moderates or work with Democrats to keep the government open. The latter would likely expose him to an attempt to oust him from the speakership.
Emblematic of how back-and-forth the week has gone for McCarthy, only a few hours earlier, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was again telling reporters that McCarthy was to blame for the funding bill pileup and threatened to begin the formal process to try to take the speaker’s gavel away from McCarthy.
Gaetz had also warned McCarthy against working with Democrats to pass a temporary funding bill. “If it’s a coalition that involves using Democrats to roll conservatives to advance Joe Biden’s spending priorities, then that will likely mark the beginning of a series of motions to vacate” the chair of the speaker, he said.
A person in the party meeting room said Gaetz said then there were seven Republicans who would not support a temporary bill of any kind.
A schedule change announced Wednesday night means the House will be in session Friday and Saturday, boosting the odds for getting to a deal on a stopgap bill or getting other bills besides the one for defense funding done.
I think we’ve got a plan to move forward, going to [the Department of Defense] and then going to a number of other appropriation bills.House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
But with McCarthy only able to lose four members and still win floor votes, the path ahead will be tricky. And though Republicans have spent much of their time this week trying to figure out how to pass funding bills by themselves, the Democratic-controlled Senate will have a say in things, too, especially if, as expected, it takes whatever temporary bill emerges from the House, adds on spending for Ukraine and natural disasters, and sends it back to the House.
The House GOP’s opening bid on a stopgap bill remains unclear. They could try to lowball it, cutting spending to an annual rate of $1.47 trillion, as had been planned prior to the week’s chaos, knowing Democrats will reject that.
One proposal would have the lower rate for the stopgap bill but a higher rate, of $1.53 trillion, for the overall spending number of next year. That would still be lower than the $1.59 trillion favored by Democrats and that they say was agreed to by Republicans earlier this year.