Government on brink of shutdown ahead of midnight deadline as McCarthy slates last-minute vote

Sep 30, 2023, 10:00 AM

(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

(CNN) — Federal agencies are making final preparations with the government on the brink of a shutdown and congressional lawmakers racing against Saturday’s critical midnight deadline – as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy mounts a last-minute push to avert the lapse in funding.

McCarthy announced that the House will vote on a 45-day short-term spending bill Saturday, and it will include the natural disaster aid that the White House requested.

Asked if he is concerned that a member, including Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, could move to oust him over this bill, McCarthy replied, “If I have to risk my job for standing up for the American public, I will do that.”

Infighting among House Republicans has played a central role in bringing Congress to a standoff over spending – and it is not yet clear how the issue will be resolved, raising concerns on Capitol Hill that a shutdown, if triggered, may not be easy to end.

House Republicans have been meeting throughout Saturday morning, seesawing between options for how to proceed. Republicans including veteran appropriators and those in swing districts pushed to bring a short-term resolution to keep the government funded for 45 days to the House floor for a vote Saturday.

McCarthy has faced threats to keeping his job throughout the month if he works with Democrats as he endures a consistent resistance from the hardline conservatives in his own party.

A shutdown is expected to have consequential impacts across the country, from air travel to clean drinking water, and many government operations would grind to a halt – though services deemed essential for public safety would continue.

Both chambers are scheduled to be in session Saturday, just hours before the deadline. The Senate is expected to take procedural steps to advance their own plan to keep the government funded – GOP Sen. Rand Paul is vowing to slow that process beyond the midnight deadline over objections to the bill’s funding for the war in Ukraine.

House Republicans have so far thrown cold water on a bipartisan Senate proposal to keep the government funded through November 17, but they have failed to coalesce around a plan of their own to avert a shutdown amid resistance from a bloc of hardline conservatives to any kind of short-term funding extension.

“After meeting with House Republicans this evening, it’s clear the misguided Senate bill has no path forward and is dead on arrival,” McCarthy wrote on X. “The House will continue to work around the clock to keep government open and prioritize the needs of the American people.”

His late Friday night message came after a two-hour conference meeting in the Capitol, where McCarthy floated several different options – including putting the Senate bill on the floor or passing a short-term bill that excludes Ukraine money. But there is still no consensus on what – if anything – they will put on the House floor Saturday to avoid a government shutdown.

McCarthy suffered another high-profile defeat on Friday when the House failed to advance a last-ditch stopgap bill.

In the aftermath of Friday’s failed vote, McCarthy told reporters he had proposed putting up a “clean” stopgap bill, and said he was “working through maybe to be able to do that.”

“We’re continuing to work through – trying to find the way out of this,” McCarthy said.

The Senate’s bipartisan bill would provide additional funds for Ukraine aid, creating a point of contention with the House where many Republicans are opposed to further support to the war-torn country.

McCarthy argued on Friday that aid to Ukraine should be dropped from the Senate bill. “I think if we had a clean one without Ukraine on it, we could probably be able to move that through. I think if the Senate puts Ukraine on there and focuses on Ukraine over America, I think that could cause real problems,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju.

The Senate, meanwhile, is working to advance its own bipartisan stopgap bill. The chamber is on track to take a procedural vote Saturday afternoon to move forward with the bill. But it’s not yet clear when senators could take a final vote to pass the bill and it may not happen until Monday, after the government has already shut down.

Paul has been a roadblock to the Senate reaching a deal to speed up consideration of the bill as he protests its inclusion of additional aid to Ukraine.

Border security has also become a complicating factor for the Senate bill as many Republicans now want to see the bill amended to address the issue.

Senate Republicans said Friday that they were still discussing what kind of border amendment they would want to add to the bill, and were unsure if the chamber could even advance the bill in Saturday’s procedural vote without the addition of a border amendment.

“Nothing’s really coming together, too many moving parts at this stage,” said Sen. Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican. “I think what I understand is we’re going to have a vote tomorrow … and other than that, there’s nothing that’s really crystallized in anything that probably would be palatable with the House.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

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Government on brink of shutdown ahead of midnight deadline as McCarthy slates last-minute vote