There are just six days until a government shutdown unless a stopgap funding bill passes, and Congress is out Monday to observe Yom Kippur. As of Monday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have that short-term funding bill. Instead, the House Rules Committee spent part of the weekend advancing the scheme cooked up by Rep. Matt Gaetz last week, one guaranteed to shut the government down.
The committee met to line up four appropriations bills to consider this week: Defense, Agriculture, State-Foreign Operations, and Homeland Security. This is Gaetz’s big idea—the House ignores government shutting down and passes all of the regular appropriations bills with drastic cuts and somehow forces the Senate and President Joe Biden to just go along with doing that. McCarthy seems to be hoping that going along with Gaetz’s plan will create enough goodwill in his conference that they’ll be willing to pass the continuing resolution to keep the government operating.
On a conference call with members, McCarthy floated a possible stopgap bill that would temporarily cut all non-defense and -veterans programs by 27% and last until mid-November. That clearly won’t pass in the Senate, and may or may not survive as a proposal by the time the House gets back to work Tuesday, when it’s supposed to vote on a very complicated rules package to bring the four spending bills to the floor.
One of the hardliners has already rejected it. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia says she is a “hard no” on the package because it includes funding for Ukraine. Given how many times McCarthy has failed to clear the hurdle of getting a bill to the floor, chances are pretty good this one won’t advance either. Even if it does, and these bills somehow pass in the House this week, they aren’t avoiding a shutdown.
There could be movement, however, on a discharge petition to temporarily fund the government. That’s a procedural move that a majority of House members can use to force a bill to the floor against the wishes of the speaker. The Washington Post reports that Democrats are looking to use as a vehicle a discharge petition they had readied last spring to resolve the debt ceiling crisis. That would save much of the time this tool requires, but they would still need five Republicans to join them and it still couldn’t be acted on by Oct. 1, the shutdown deadline.
If that happens, if a continuing resolution passes with Democratic help, then Gaetz will likely move forward with his plan to try to oust McCarthy. One McCarthy ally is plotting an end run around Gaetz. Republican Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana has his own motion to vacate the chair, the bill that forces a vote on the speaker, ready to go. He said his message to Gaetz is, “Look, if you’re going to keep hanging this over [his] head and playing these games, let’s just do it now, let’s get it over with. Get your little games over with and then we’ll get back to the things that actually matter.”
While the House continues with its chaos, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are negotiating their own version of a continuing resolution. On Friday, Schumer readied legislation that can serve as the stopgap bill to come to the floor this week. The plan is for the Senate to pass a bill by Thursday or Friday, and then dump it on the House, giving McCarthy the choice of either putting their bill on the floor and passing it with Democratic support, or shutting the government down.
That’s a good plan, but it’s no guarantee that the government won’t be shut down. It all rests on whether McCarthy can step up and do the right thing, which is never a good bet.
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