Speaker McCarthy Confronts Limited Alternatives to Avert Shutdown Amid Conservative Opposition to Recent Proposal

by Michael Nguyen
Government Shutdown

Speaker Kevin McCarthy is fast approaching a dead end in his efforts to avert a federal government shutdown, as even stringent border security provisions failed to satisfy the ultra-conservative faction within his Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

McCarthy informed his Republican caucus that they should anticipate working through the weekend to pass an interim funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, to keep governmental operations running beyond the September 30 deadline. However, many within the party are already steeling themselves for the political repercussions of a possible shutdown.

Despite the narrowing window, McCarthy remained optimistic in his public remarks. “The deadline is not today; there’s still a significant period left,” he stated to the press at the Capitol.

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While McCarthy dismissed the notion of collaborating with Democrats on annual spending bills, he insisted that viable solutions were still emerging from his own party.

On Sunday evening, House Republicans, in collaboration between the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and the more pragmatic Main Street Caucus, proposed a Thursday vote on a one-month spending bill. This proposal was crafted to gain favor from the conservative elements within the Republican Conference by incorporating a 1% reduction in last year’s spending along with a range of Republican-backed initiatives for border security and immigration.

Given the Democratic control of the Senate, the likelihood of accepting such conservative measures is slim. McCarthy’s most feasible option at this juncture is to pass a proposal to initiate discussions with the Senate, although even this route appears increasingly uncertain as time runs out.

The Speaker had organized a vote on a Department of Defense spending bill for Wednesday, followed by the short-term funding measure the subsequent day. “There’s substantial opposition at this point,” noted Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., leader of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative faction in the House. Hern mentioned that much negotiation was still taking place “behind the scenes” to secure enough votes for passage.

Heads of the so-called “five families”—the diverse conservative groups that form the House Republican majority—are scheduled to gather privately in the Speaker’s office later on Monday. It is imperative that they agree on a unified strategy, as McCarthy has only eight legislative workdays left before funding expires.

“This package safeguards our borders while keeping the government operational. Republicans must concentrate on these priorities,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., chair of the Mainstreet Caucus, who was involved in shaping the proposal.

Although McCarthy maintains that there is still time to devise a strategy before the fiscal year concludes, he has also cautioned his party about the political pitfalls of a government shutdown. “I’ve experienced shutdowns, and no one ever emerges victorious from them. In such circumstances, you cede all leverage to the administration,” McCarthy opined during a Fox News interview on Sunday.

Resistance is already building within the party. Several Republicans took to X, the platform once known as Twitter, shortly after Sunday’s conference call, decrying even the modified spending package as grossly inadequate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a memorandum on Monday, alerting the business sector to a “broad consensus” that an extended shutdown is likely, and warned that no straightforward solution exists for resuming governmental operations.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, speaking on CNBC on Monday, underscored the potential economic ramifications of a funding lapse, stating, “We have a robust economy; introducing an element that could derail that momentum is undesirable.”

McCarthy could, in theory, turn to House Democrats to approve an interim funding bill by removing conservative policy victories from the legislation. However, such a move risks inflaming far-right members of his caucus, who have threatened to depose him as Speaker if he chooses this path.

For the moment, McCarthy has shown no willingness to compromise with Democrats to stave off a shutdown, reiterating on Monday that Republicans are still proposing “numerous viable solutions.”

Contributing reporter Fatima Hussein in Washington provided additional reporting.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about government shutdown

What is the core issue Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing?

Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing significant challenges in averting a federal government shutdown as he struggles to unify the conservative factions within his Republican majority in the House. Even stringent border security provisions have not been sufficient to garner unanimous support.

Who are the key players involved in this issue?

The key players include Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, the pragmatic Main Street Caucus, and the Republican Study Committee led by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla. Democratic-controlled Senate and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also play roles from outside the House Republican Conference.

What are the proposed solutions to prevent the shutdown?

The primary proposal is a one-month spending bill that incorporates a 1% cut from last year’s spending levels along with several Republican-backed initiatives for border security and immigration. This was intended to secure support from the conservative wing of the Republican Conference.

What is the timeline for action?

The government is set to run out of funding on September 30. McCarthy has proposed that the caucus should be prepared to work through the weekend to pass a continuing resolution. He has also organized votes on specific spending bills for the upcoming week.

Is compromise with Democrats an option for McCarthy?

While theoretically possible, McCarthy has so far dismissed the idea of compromising with Democrats. Some far-right members of his caucus have even threatened to attempt to remove him from his Speaker position if he chooses to collaborate with the Democrats.

What are the potential political repercussions of a government shutdown?

McCarthy has warned his party that a government shutdown is likely to have negative political consequences for Republicans. He mentioned that shutdowns generally cede leverage to the administration and are, therefore, counterproductive for advancing party objectives.

What external organizations have weighed in on this issue?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a memorandum to the business community warning of a “broad consensus” that an extended shutdown is likely. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also emphasized the potential economic damage a funding stoppage could incur.

Is there a public consensus on the likelihood of a shutdown?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has indicated that there is a “broad consensus” among the business community that an extended shutdown is likely. This suggests that the broader public is increasingly concerned about the possibility.

More about government shutdown

  • Federal Budget Process Explained
  • Understanding Continuing Resolutions
  • Profile: House Freedom Caucus
  • Profile: Main Street Caucus
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Shutdown Warning Memo
  • Janet Yellen’s CNBC Interview on Fiscal Consequences
  • Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s Political History
  • The Role and Powers of the Speaker of the House
  • What Happens During a Government Shutdown?

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TimothyQ September 18, 2023 - 8:34 pm

Am I the only one who thinks compromise isn’t a bad word? Seriously, sometimes you’ve gotta give a little to get a little.

SaraM September 18, 2023 - 9:32 pm

So basically, we’re bracing for a shutdown? Great, just what we need when the economy is already shaky.

John D. September 18, 2023 - 10:23 pm

Wow, McCarthy’s really in a tight spot, huh? Can’t get his own team to agree and the clock’s ticking fast. what a mess.

Mike_in_DC September 19, 2023 - 4:27 am

McCarthy needs to get his house (pun intended) in order. If he cant manage his own caucus how’s he gonna deal with a whole country?

Annie_R September 19, 2023 - 10:31 am

Looks like McCarthy is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. GOP infighting is gonna cost ’em, just watch.


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