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Speaker McCarthy’s Concession to Conservative Wing Fails, Raising Likelihood of Government Shutdown

by Gabriel Martinez
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Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s recent strategy to avert an impending federal government shutdown by placating his conservative faction disintegrated rapidly on Thursday. This setback significantly heightens the probability of a disruption in government operations.

As the clock ticks toward a shutdown, McCarthy’s attempt to initiate proceedings with a generally well-received defense funding bill suffered a blow. A select group of Republican colleagues defied him, further jeopardizing his already precarious position as Speaker.

A preliminary vote designed to move the bill forward faltered with a 212-216 tally, as a small contingent of Republicans allied with Democrats to block its progress. This marks the third instance where McCarthy, a Republican from California, has been unable to advance the defense funding legislation, a rare defeat for someone in his role. This further halted legislative activities in the House.

Post-vote, a visibly vexed McCarthy remarked, “These are individuals who seemingly want to bring the entire operation to its knees. It’s not effective.”

The overt defiance adds to a growing narrative that McCarthy’s approach of continually conceding to conservative demands only serves to embolden them. Encouraged by Donald Trump, the early favorite for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, a faction within the GOP has effectively usurped control over their House majority.

Trump had used social media platforms to exhort these conservative lawmakers to oppose the increased spending levels that McCarthy had previously agreed upon with President Joe Biden. He also urged them to bring an end to federal indictments against him.

With the end of the current fiscal year approaching on September 30, a government shutdown will occur if Congress fails to pass requisite funding bills or approve an interim measure to sustain federal operations.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York admonished the extreme conservatives within the Republican Party, imploring them to “resolve your internal conflicts. Act responsibly.”

Both Democratic and some Republican leaders caution that a government shutdown would have dire consequences for American citizens dependent on governmental services and would erode the nation’s international standing.

McCarthy had intended to use the defense bill as an initial measure to garner support within the GOP majority for a temporary stopgap bill to keep the government running for an additional month. This interim measure was designed to reduce spending by 8% on various services and to enhance border security, but it too is now in jeopardy.

Conservative lawmakers are demanding lower spending levels across federal departments and are resisting the bipartisan deal McCarthy had brokered with Biden earlier this year.

McCarthy’s plans were definitively dashed when the preliminary vote on the defense bill failed. Although Republicans were initially positioned to advance the bill, Democrats rushed into the chamber to tip the scales against it.

Key Democrats, such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, oppose the bill for various reasons, including provisions that would dismantle diversity programs within the Pentagon.

As the measure seemed destined for failure, focus shifted to five Republican holdouts. Despite over an hour of persuasion, Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., would not switch his vote to ‘yes,’ citing insufficient assurances.

With time running out and options dwindling, McCarthy’s path forward remains ambiguous, even as internal dissent within the Republican Party grows increasingly vocal.

New York Rep. Mike Lawler, a moderate, warned that he would not partake in causing a government shutdown, stating, “One must recognize that you can’t always get what you want. Resorting to petulance is not just wrong; it’s deplorable.”


Contributors to this report include Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freking, and Jill Colvin from Big Big News.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s effort to prevent a government shutdown by accommodating his conservative faction falls apart, heightening the risk of service disruptions. A fractured GOP and preliminary vote failures compound the crisis.

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