WASHINGTON — The House appears no closer to funding the government and averting a shutdown than they were when lawmakers left over a month ago for a weeks-long August recess.
House Republicans have been embroiled in gridlock over government spending, with hard-right lawmakers refusing to compromise on conservative demands that have zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The deep divisions within the House GOP conference were on display when a procedural vote to begin debate on a critical defense spending bill – one of the 11 appropriations bills Congress must pass to avert a shutdown – was postponed due to threats from the holdouts to tank the vote.
“I got frustrated with some people in the conference,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said at a press conference Thursday following a closed-door meeting where he urged Republicans to avoid a shutdown. Lawmakers have to find a path to avoid a shutdown by Sep. 30, when government funding expires.
As the country barrels towards a shutdown with less than 10 working days left, conservative hardliners have been unclear as to what exactly they are demanding. McCarthy on Thursday lamented that he had to postpone the defense spending bill, even though he did not “have one complaint by any member of what’s wrong with this bill.”
Here’s the latest on the government shutdown fight.
Related: Is a government shutdown imminent? What Congress needs to do (quickly) to avoid one.
Deep divisions remain among House Republicans as shutdown draws closer
Tensions within the House Republican conference appeared to reach a boiling point Thursday during a closed-door meeting where McCarthy argued against a shutdown.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., threatened to file a motion to vacate Tuesday – a move to eject McCarthy from his role as speaker – if McCarthy put a short-term spending bill on the House floor. In the meeting, McCarthy brushed off the challenges and virtually dared his detractors to try to force him out, according to reports.
“Threats don’t matter, and sometimes people do those things because of personal things and that’s all fine,” McCarthy said at the press conference.
Those threats among House Republicans have scrambled the chamber’s progress towards averting a shutdown. Before Congress left for its August recess, House Republicans punted a vote on an agriculture spending bill – typically uncontroversial – due to divisions between ultra-conservative lawmakers and the more moderate wing of the GOP. The House felt a familiar sense of déjà vu Wednesday when a procedural vote on a defense spending bill, also typically uncontroversial, had to be delayed.
“I have not heard many members describe to me what is wrong with the (defense spending bill). Some members are pretty honest that they’re holding this for leverage. I don’t think that’s the appropriate tactic,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., chair of the Republican Main Street Caucus and considered one of the GOP’s dealmakers, told reporters Thursday.
House GOP expresses frustration at hardline conservatives: ‘They’re smoking something really good’
Moderate Republicans have expressed frustration at the holdouts for their refusal to compromise and their lack of clarity on their demands as the Sept. 30 deadline creeps closer.
Among the few clear demands of the House Freedom Caucus, a loose coalition of the House’s most conservative lawmakers, include increased security at the southern border and provisions striking “woke” policies from the Pentagon, which mostly pertain to the Defense Department’s abortion policies. Those demands, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., acknowledged, are dead on arrival in the Senate.
“There’s some false sense of reality here. They think whatever they demand and get out of the House … we’re gonna demand the Senate do it,” Bacon told reporters Thursday. “They’re smoking something really good.”
Despite those concerns and attempts from leadership, Freedom Caucus members say their approach hasn’t changed.
“Nothing’s changed from my standpoint,” Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a member of the Freedom Caucus told reporters Thursday. “We need to pass them implementing our priorities from a legislative standpoint, policy standpoint.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: McCarthy, House Republicans boil over as government shutdown looms