House GOP leaders are engaged in talks with hard-right members in an urgent push to salvage their spending bill plans – but are now considering an abrupt change in strategy: Avoiding a government shutdown at month’s end.
Republican leaders in the House had hoped to approve a massive bill to fund the Pentagon this week in a bid to strengthen their hand in talks with the Senate, which is moving on its own set of funding bills setting a higher level of spending.
But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing demands from hardliners in the House Freedom Caucus who want him to commit to deeper spending cuts and specific funding levels as they head into talks with the Senate.
With no agreement in hand, House Republicans are considering shelving the defense bill and focusing instead on approving a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open past September 30.
But even that short-term bill is filled with problems. McCarthy said that he won’t include aid to Ukraine in that bill, despite the demands of senators in both parties and the White House. Plus, he may load up the plan with tougher border security measures, something that could cause a Democratic revolt.
Asked by CNN if Ukraine aid would be a stand-alone vote on the floor, McCarthy said: “Yes,” indicating it would be “discussed on its own.”
House appropriators are warning that if Republicans can’t even pass a defense spending bill, they may need to cut bait and move to the short-term continuing resolution.
“It’s back to the drawing board for leadership,” one appropriator told CNN adding that the fight had devolved into a “mess.”
“If you can’t pass defense, you can’t pass any of them,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican member of the panel.
Simpson added that two weeks ago, he would have said no that a shutdown wasn’t likely. Now, he says, “I don’t know.”
Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday that there likely won’t be any movement on the appropriations process until the current impasse is solved.
“There currently is not an appetite to just, I would call it, blindly move forward with any one piece of the puzzle until we can actually look at the picture of the puzzle we’re actually trying to assemble,” he told reporters. “I have no interest in grabbing a piece and just sticking it on a board and hoping.”