The House Republican speaker, Kevin McCarthy, suffered another embarrassing defeat on Friday, after hard-right lawmakers tanked his stopgap funding bill that would have averted a federal shutdown on Sunday morning.
McCarthy’s proposed stopgap measure, which would have funded the government for another month while enacting severe spending cuts on most federal agencies, failed in a vote of 198-232, as 21 Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the legislation.
The Senate is scheduled to take another procedural vote at 1pm on Saturday to advance its stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown.
With less than 36 hours left before government funding lapses, McCarthy appeared to be out of options to prevent a shutdown. Speaking to reporters before the vote, McCarthy tried to pitch the stopgap proposal as a means of buying time to continue negotiations over longer-term spending bills.
“We actually need a stopgap measure to allow the House to continue to finish its work – to make sure our military gets paid, to make sure our border agents get paid as we finish the job,” McCarthy said.
But that argument failed to sway the hard-right members of McCarthy’s conference, who have insisted for weeks that they would not back any short-term spending bill, known as a continuing resolution. With such a narrow House majority, McCarthy could only afford to lose a handful of votes within his conference to pass the continuing resolution without any Democratic support. The bill cleared a key procedural hurdle on Friday afternoon, but the proposal could not garner enough support for final passage.
Republican leaders informed members that votes were now expected in the House on Saturday, suggesting McCarthy may try again to pass a continuing resolution, but expectations for some kind of breakthrough were low on Friday afternoon.
In an attempt to appease the holdouts heading into the Friday vote, McCarthy has worked to advance a series of longer-term appropriations bills that include some of the steep spending cuts demanded by hard-right Republicans. On Thursday night, the House successfully passed three of those bills, but an agricultural funding proposal failed amid criticism from more moderate Republicans.
Despite McCarthy’s concessions, members of the hard-right House freedom caucus remained adamant on Friday that they would not support a continuing resolution.
“The continuing resolution being offered today is a bad deal for Republicans,” the congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of the leaders of the holdouts, said in a floor speech before the final vote. “That’s why I’m voting against it.”
The unrelenting blockade staged by Gaetz and his allies has enraged some of the more moderate members of the House Republican conference – including the congressman Mike Lawler, who represents a New York district that Joe Biden won in 2020.
“There’s only one person to blame for any potential government shutdown and that’s Matt Gaetz,” Lawler told reporters. “He’s not a conservative Republican; he’s a charlatan.”
McCarthy’s continuing resolution also included severe spending cuts for most of the federal government, sparking impassioned criticism among House Democrats. Every member of the House Democratic caucus opposed the continuing resolution, leaving McCarthy with no option for passing the bill.
“Once again, extreme Republicans in the House have demonstrated their complete and utter inability to govern,” the House Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, said after the vote. “We are in the middle of a Republican civil war that has been ongoing for months and now threatens a catastrophic government shutdown that will hurt everyday Americans.”
Meanwhile, the Senate continued to work on its own bipartisan spending proposal, advancing the bill in a vote of 76-22 on Thursday. That measure would keep the government funded until 17 November, and it includes roughly $6bn in funding each for disaster relief efforts and aid for Ukraine.
House Republicans have roundly rejected that bipartisan bill, denouncing the additional funding for Ukraine and arguing it does not go far enough to curtail government spending. After the failed vote on Friday, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, called on McCarthy to face the reality of the situation.
“The speaker has spent weeks catering to the hard right, and now he finds himself in the exact same position he’s been in since the beginning: no plan forward, no closer to passing something that avoids a shutdown,” Schumer said in a floor speech. “The speaker needs to abandon his doomed mission of trying to please Maga extremists, and instead he needs to work across the aisle to keep the government open.”
With each chamber rejecting the other’s proposal, it remained unclear on Friday afternoon how lawmakers could reach an agreement to keep the government open. As the federal government braced for a shutdown, the White House lambasted McCarthy for conceding to hard-right Republicans, after the speaker reneged on a funding deal he had struck with Joe Biden this spring.
“Extreme House Republicans are solely – solely – to blame for marching us toward a shutdown. That is what we’re seeing right now,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Friday.
Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, also mocked McCarthy for promising to go without pay during a shutdown, which could furlough hundreds of thousands of federal workers.
“That is theater,” Young said at the White House. “I will tell you: the guy who picks up the trash in my office won’t get a paycheck. That’s real. And that’s what makes me angry.”
With less than two days left before government funding lapses on Sunday morning, a shutdown appeared to be a virtual certainty.