Speaker Kevin McCarthy is eyeing a last-minute escape hatch from a government shutdown before Sunday’s deadline— one that will require support from Democrats and potentially endanger his gavel.
House Republicans are meeting behind closed doors on Saturday morning to try to figure out their spending strategy after nearly two dozen of their own members on Friday blocked a GOP proposal to pair funding the government with steep spending cuts and conservative border policy.
McCarthy is mulling a 45-day stopgap spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, to avert a shutdown and give the House GOP more time to pass their own full-year spending bills, according to a Republican familiar with the talks.
But that plan remains in flux, and executing it would require help from a significant swath of Democrats — the exact scenario under which conservatives have threatened to try to end McCarthy’s speakership.
McCarthy will use Saturday’s closed-door meetings to temperature check his own members; the House is scheduled to come into session with no clarity on yet what it will be voting on. Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) has conveyed to fellow leaders that the GOP lacks the votes on its own side of the aisle to pass any short-term stopgap bill without looking to Democrats, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
If a 14-day stopgap bill passes, “everybody will go home and then come back on the 12th or 13th day and start working on it,” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), one of the conservative holdouts. “And we should have been here working [during August], because I guarantee America has been working while we’re sitting on our ass.”
Should McCarthy move ahead with his latest 45-day idea, that bill could present Democrats with a tough choice over whether to support government funding without Ukraine aid. They haven’t yet signaled if they would back it in sufficient numbers.
McCarthy’s shift in strategy comes less than 24 hours before a shutdown that’s set to begin at midnight Sunday. And it comes with significant political risk for the Californian, who’s facing threats to try to strip him of his gavel.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has led that charge against the speaker, has vowed to force a vote on removing McCarthy if a “clean” short-term funding measure came to the floor.
However, McCarthy argued during a private conference meeting on Friday night that putting a short-term funding bill on the table would “dare” Democrats to support something that lacked Ukraine aid.
“I think if we had a clean one without Ukraine, we would probably be able to move it through,” McCarthy told reporters afterward.
Part of GOP leadership’s effort to woo the holdouts included a calendar unveiled during the conference meeting that outlined plans to move nearly all of the rest of House Republicans’ full-year spending bills — none of which have a chance at passing the Senate in their current form.
House Republicans have passed four individual spending bills so far, leaving eight to go.
But two of the Republicans who have talked the loudest about potentially oust McCarthy — Gaetz and Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) — were two of the first people to leave that Friday night meeting.
House GOP leadership is also racing with the Senate to see which chamber can clear a stopgap funding bill first. Senators are expected to vote on Saturday afternoon to advance a bill that would fund the government through Nov. 17 and give additional aid to Ukraine.
“If we can operationally get another stopgap out of the House … before [senators] act, that’s our best option,” McHenry said Friday evening after the House GOP meeting.
Olivia Beavers and Anthony Adragna contributed.
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