POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

McCarthy’s last-ditch plan to keep the government open collapses, making a shutdown almost certain

Sep 29, 2023, 12:09 PM | Updated: 4:50 pm

(CNN) — Federal agencies are making final preparations with the government on the brink of a shu...

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters following a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 14. Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s last-ditch plan to keep the federal government temporarily open collapsed on Friday as hard-right holdouts rejected the package, making a shutdown almost certain.

McCarthy’s right-flank Republicans refused to support the bill despite its steep spending cuts of nearly 30% to many agencies and severe border security provisions, calling it insufficient.

The White House and Democrats rejected the Republican approach as too extreme. The vote was 198-232, with 21 hard-right Republicans voting to sink the package. The Democrats voted against it.

The bill’s failure a day before Saturday’s deadline to fund the government leaves few options left to prevent a shutdown that will furlough federal workers, keep the military working without pay and disrupt programs and services for millions of Americans.

The outcome puts McCarthy’s speakership in serious jeopardy with almost no political leverage to lead the House at a critical moment that has pushed the government into crisis.

Ahead of voting, the Republican speaker all but dared his hold-out colleagues to oppose the package a day before Saturday’s almost certain shutdown. The House bill would have kept operations open through Oct. 31.

“Every member will have to go on record where they stand,” the Republican McCarthy said at the Capitol.

Asked if he had the votes, McCarthy quipped, “We’ll see.”

As soon as the floor debate began, McCarthy’s chief Republican critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, announced he would be voting against the package, calling its border security provisions insufficient and urging his colleagues to “not surrender.”

The federal government is heading straight into a shutdown after midnight Saturday that would leave 2 million military troops without pay, furlough federal works and disrupt government services and programs that Americans rely on from coast to coast. Congress has been unable to fund the agencies or pass a temporary bill to keep offices open.

While the Senate is pushing ahead Friday with its own widely bipartisan plan favored by Republicans and Democrats to keep the government open and to bolster Ukraine aid and U.S. disaster accounts, the House has been in political chaos as the hard-right flank seized control.

The White House has declined McCarthy’s overtures to meet with President Joe Biden after the speaker walked away from the debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set budget levels.

“Extreme House Republicans are now tripling down on their demands to eviscerate programs millions of hardworking families count on,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre said, “The path forward to fund the government has been laid out by the Senate with bipartisan support — House Republicans just need to take it.”

Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy has returned to the lower spending limits it demanded back in January as part of the deal-making to help him become the House speaker.

The package would not cut the Defense, Veterans or Homeland Security departments but would have slashed almost all other agencies by up to 30% — steep hits to a vast array of programs, services and departments Americans routinely depend on.

It also added strict new border security provisions that would kickstart building the wall at the southern border with Mexico, among other measures. Additionally, the package would set up a bipartisan debt commission to address the nation’s mounting debt load.

The hard right, led by Gaetz, has been threatening McCarthy’s ouster, with a looming vote to try to remove him from the speaker’s office unless he meets the conservative demands. Still, it’s unclear if any other Republican would have support from the House majority to lead the party.

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McCarthy’s last-ditch plan to keep the government open collapses, making a shutdown almost certain