The House GOP’s funding patch fails, teeing up shutdown

The House GOP’s funding patch fails, teeing up shutdown

House Republicans failed to pass a stopgap government funding bill on Friday, leaving Kevin McCarthy with no clear next step to try to avert a shutdown in less than 36 hours.

It’s an enormous blow to the speaker, who by bringing the vote to the floor essentially dared his hardliners to oppose the patch. He argued that voting against it essentially meant opposing border security. But conservatives called his bluff, with 21 Republicans helping Democrats sink the bill.

“We’ll take our votes, and then we’ll just sit down and try to work things out,” Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) said before Republicans were set to huddle in their third all-members meeting of the week. “I am really concerned that we’re going to lapse and go into a shutdown.”

It’s not clear what path House Republicans take from here. Some conservative lawmakers vowed that they will reject any short-term funding patch, further limiting McCarthy’s options. They’ve telegraphed their opposition for weeks, but some Republicans still privately hoped the right flank would ultimately cave.

One GOP member vented to their colleagues as they hopped in the elevator after the vote that Republicans had just blown their chance to get any border changes into the spending bill: “We have no leverage. … It’s just dumb.”

Republicans will meet behind closed doors at 4 p.m. to discuss next steps. But McCarthy has so far eschewed questions about cutting a deal with Democrats — a move that would all but guarantee an attempt to strip him of his gavel. The House is expected to take more votes Saturday, though what they’ll vote on isn’t clear.

And so far House and Senate leadership aren’t conducting the sort of cross-Capitol negotiations that could help craft a last-minute deal. Absent an 11th-hour breakthrough, which no one expects, the government will shut down at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

There are some bipartisan talks going on, even between members of the House and Senate, though they don’t involve congressional leaders.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) trekked to the House side earlier Friday for what he called a “missionary” mission — sussing out if there is space for a bicameral spending deal.

“That is what we are trying to work out — how can we get something that will be largely well-received by a majority of the majority. … And I think we need to do the work to get there,” Tillis said, while acknowledging the “odds are against us” to get it done before the shutdown deadline.

Tillis is part of a group of largely Republican senators and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) who are trying to come up with a compromise on border security provisions, a move they hope would shore up support among GOP senators for a stopgap bill and help it pass the House.

At least some House Republicans think the chamber should vote on that temporary funding patch.

“If something comes over from the Senate, I assume we would vote,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House centrists are plotting their own break-glass options meant to either prevent a shutdown or navigate a way out of it. Led by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, the members have looked into ways they can force a vote to the floor without McCarthy’s approval. Those talks, though, are unlikely to gain serious traction until closer to the deadline.

“All options are on the table to keep the government open. … We are always the back stop, the Problem Solvers. We never jump ahead of leadership,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), predicting their plan wouldn’t become ripe until Friday night or Saturday.

A group of frontliners, including vulnerable New York Republicans, have also said that they will join Democrats’ discharge petition, in an attempt to force a short-term spending bill onto the floor. Meanwhile, Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), who heads the Republican Governance Group, has also been in talks with House Democrats. He predicted that there would be further attempts to avert a shutdown before Sunday.

“It’s the first play being called. There’s a lot of time. There could be a second play, there could be a third play,” Joyce said.

Across the Capitol, the Senate is set to take a key procedural vote on Saturday, just hours before federal cash dries up, to advance its own bipartisan short-term funding fix that includes $6 billion for Ukraine and $6 billion in disaster aid. But any final passage vote likely won’t happen before the shutdown deadline.

That bill, which would extend government funding through Nov. 17, has been panned by House Republicans. The group of senators negotiating an amendment with as much as $6 billion in additional border money is attempting to build more GOP support.

It’s unclear if McCarthy would even take up a Senate-passed stopgap with border provisions, however. Earlier Friday, the California Republican pledged he wouldn’t “surrender to the liberals,” slamming the Senate for its failure to pass any annual spending bills on the floor.

“Why do you assume when the Senate has done nothing and the House continues to act, that I should do what the Senate does?” he said.

McCarthy acknowledged that he has spoken to Democratic and Republican senators about border reforms. He stressed that their potential stopgap amendment must include “real policy,” like finishing the border wall and provisions requiring migrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico until their immigration court dates.

McCarthy’s border demands aren’t likely to pass muster in the Senate, however, where any policy changes would require 60 votes to get added to the upper chamber’s stopgap bill. McCarthy called that bar “a high threshold,” but insisted, there “has to be policy.”

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