September 29, 2023 - Government shutdown nears as Congress continues negotiations

By Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond, Matt Meyer, Adrienne Vogt and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 11:31 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023
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11:31 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

Our live coverage has ended. Follow the latest news or read through the updates below. 

10:53 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

McCarthy clarifies his opposition to Senate stopgap bill amid GOP confusion over leadership’s plans

From CNN's Melanie Zanona

Speaker Kevin McCarthy clarified that he opposes the Senate’s stopgap spending bill and declared it would be a non-starter in the House, after some hardliners left a meeting in the Capitol confused about his position. 

“After meeting with House Republicans this evening, it’s clear the misguided Senate bill has no path forward and is dead on arrival,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “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 comes after a two-hour conference meeting in the Capitol tonight, 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. At this point, McCarthy appears to be throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.

9:53 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

1.3 million US service members and their families brace for no pay

From CNN's Haley Britzky and Oren Liebermann

For 1.3 million active-duty troops, the paycheck received Friday could be their last until government funding is passed, though they will continue to go to work. 

“I think what is going through my mind is the unknown right now,” one Army spouse, Joanna Nicoletti, told CNN Friday. “We have childcare costs, we have student loans, we have bills to pay, we have mortgages to pay — where is that money going to come from?” 

Nicoletti was in Alexandria, Virginia, Friday meeting with other spouses and members of the Military Family Advisory Network’s advisory board.

Shannon Razsadin, the president of MFAN, told CNN that some military families are “just getting by,” and a missed paycheck could devastating. 

“Military families, they sacrifice a lot,” Razsadin said, “and they should not have to worry about if they’ll get paid when their due to get paid.”  

For Ginger Gerrish, a Coast Guard spouse whose husband is currently deployed, this isn’t the first time she’s had those concerns.

From December 2018 to January 2019, the Coast Guard went without pay for 35 days during a government shutdown — while Congress passed legislation that ensured much of the military was paid, it did not include the Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security. 

While legislation has been introduced this year to pay the military in a shutdown, it has not been passed. 

“Thankfully I live in military housing, so the government understands they’ll get paid eventually,” Gerrish said. “But I’m thinking of all the family who have to have this conversation with their landlord: ‘I’m going to be late and I don’t know how late.’ How do you ask for grace if you don’t know how long that grace period needs to be?” 
“It feels odd to work when you’re not getting paid,” she added. “I think that would be unacceptable in the civilian sector. And Congress is still getting paid … It’s difficult when you can’t count on your elected officials to protect you when you’re literally protecting them and your country. So there’s some hard feelings there.”
9:48 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

Biden says McCarthy has "made a terrible bargain" ahead of looming government shutdown

In a sit down interview with ProPublica ahead of a potential government shutdown, President Joe Biden said he believes House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has “made a terrible bargain” to retain power. 

“In order to keep the speakership he’s willing to do things, I think he knows are inconsistent with constitutional processes,” the president said. 

Biden added that he worries there are members of the Republican party who want to remake the government.

The president’s interview was recorded before Friday evening when Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced he wants the Senate to remove funding from Ukraine from their proposed short-term stopgap 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 I think that could cause real problems,” McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju. 
7:48 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

House Republicans vent frustration after failed vote on conservative stopgap spending bill

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Manu Raju

House Republicans have vented their frustration Friday after a House GOP stopgap spending bill failed resoundingly on the floor. 

Rep. Mike Lawler, a swing district Republican in New York, said Friday afternoon that there is only one person to blame for the looming government shutdown: “charlatan” Rep. Matt Gaetz. 

“Unfortunately, a handful of people, and in particular a party of one, Matt Gaetz, have chosen to put his own agenda, his own personal agenda, above all else. There's only one person to blame for any potential government shutdown. And that's Matt Gaetz. He is not a conservative Republican. He's a charlatan,” Lawler told CNN’s Manu Raju. 

(Gaetz has been a central figure of resistance to Speaker Kevin McCarthy's attempts at finding a last-minute deal. The two got into a testy exchange Thursday during a closed-door meeting, according to a source in the room.)

Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, speaking to press immediately after the failed vote, also went after conservatives who tanked the GOP’s stopgap measure. 

“They killed the most conservative position we could take and then called themselves the real conservatives, which is like — make that make sense. You can't make it make sense. And so now you're going to get a more liberal spending bill,” he told CNN, blaming the 21 Republicans who voted against the House’s bill. 

Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who helped negotiate the spending bill that failed Friday afternoon, said Republicans who killed the bill made a poor decision.  

“They made a bad vote. That’s my position,” Donalds told CNN.

Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, a senior GOP appropriator, slammed many of the 21 dissenters for not even attending the closed-door meeting where lawmakers tried to hash out their differences Friday.

"We’re the governing majority. This is what we're supposed to do as a governing majority: We're supposed to lead," Womack said. But it's hard to do so when the caucus can't get on the same page, he added.

Rep. Ralph Norman said he was “disappointed” that Speaker McCarthy didn’t whip the vote more as he lamented that the House, in his view, has ceded their position to the Senate.  

“I hate we ceded the purse strings to the Senate,” Norman told reporters. “We’ll live to fight another day.”

Other conservatives defended their decision: But hardliner Gaetz continued his attacks against speaker McCarthy after the vote and said that he doesn’t believe a continuing resolution will pass the House. 

“Right now my sole focus is on getting our single subject spending bills passed. The speaker’s continuing resolution went down in flames. As I’ve told you all week it would. The house of representatives can pass single subject spending bills, we will not pass a continuing resolution on terms that continue America’s decline,” he told CNN.

Rep. Andy Ogles of Tennessee, a hardliner who also voted against the stopgap measure, pushed back against leadership and blamed them for not having more urgency earlier this year. 

This post has been updated with additional comments from GOP lawmakers.

7:19 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

McCarthy calls on Senate to drop Ukraine aid to avoid shutdown

From CNN's Manu Raju and Haley Talbot

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says Ukraine money needs to be dropped from the stopgap spending bill in order for the federal government to avert a shutdown. 

“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 — I think that could cause real problems,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju. 

McCarthy said if the Senate produces a bill “in the manner that they are” it will likely lead to a shutdown.

“I think we could solve that problem,” he added, calling again for lawmakers to provide a “clean” bill to keep the government open. But if the Senate moves forward with Ukraine in their continuing resolution, he said, it’s a non-starter. 

McCarthy sounded open to negotiating around funding levels and did not draw a red line on border security. 

The House will remain in session next week and cancel their scheduled recess. 

6:53 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

House leaders gauging support for new plan to fund the government for 14 days

From CNN's Manu Raju, Melanie Zanona and Lauren Fox

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his leadership team now plan to see if there is any willingness of the 21 holdouts to accept a short-term spending bill to keep the government open for a couple of weeks. If there is, then that plan could come to the floor. 

Otherwise, they may be forced to accept the Senate bill with no hand to play. 

Twenty-one Republicans crossed over to vote with every Democrat against the stopgap bill on Friday for a vote of 232-198.

Rep. Ralph Norman said that some of the holdouts indicated in the conference may be willing to back a short-term spending bill now that leadership laid out a clear schedule for the rest of the spending bills and agreed to keep members in session. He claims the holdouts are now closer to nine members. 

But given the uncertainty, some Republicans are resigned that they may need to swallow the Senate passed short-term spending bill and vote with Democrats. 

"I think you just come to a point in the path where you just cut your options and move on," one GOP member said of this position.

McCarthy also told his conference per a source that "we may not have the strongest hand, but we do have the strongest issue," referencing the border.

8:04 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

How the shutdown could impact the border

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Tami Luhby

A US Border Patrol boat picks up families with young children as other migrants wait for an opening in the razor wire barrier to cross into the United States, in Eagle Pass, Texas, on September 25.
A US Border Patrol boat picks up families with young children as other migrants wait for an opening in the razor wire barrier to cross into the United States, in Eagle Pass, Texas, on September 25. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

US Border Patrol agents are considered essential and will continue to perform their law enforcement functions, including apprehending migrants crossing the border unlawfully, during a government shutdown – but without pay.

A senior Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official told CNN that the agency will remain focused on its border security mission, as well as facilitating trade and travel. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would also continue its law enforcement duties.

An estimated 59,066 CBP personnel are expected to remain working during a lapse in appropriations and an estimated 16,766 employees will be considered exempt or excepted at ICE in the event of a shutdown, according to a Homeland Security document detailing the agency’s procedures.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which also falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is tasked with processing asylum claims, would continue work that’s fee-funded.

Even though border authorities will keep working, a shutdown could harm other operations.

In previous shutdowns, for example, DHS was forced to delay maintenance of facilities, “which had a serious impact on law enforcement officer operations and safety, including at the border,” according to a 2019 congressional report that reviewed the cost of past government shutdowns.

“The lack of these critical maintenance and repair services endangered the lives of law enforcement officers and created significant border security vulnerabilities,” the report states.
6:18 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

Who is Rep. Matt Gaetz, the GOP lawmaker that keeps threatening to oust McCarthy?

From CNN’s Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, Clare Foran, Haley Talbot and Kristin Wilson

Matt Gaetz questions Attorney General Merrick Garland as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, on September 20.
Matt Gaetz questions Attorney General Merrick Garland as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, on September 20. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and conservative firebrand, has floated the possibility of using a motion that could oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy as the House GOP scrambles to avert a possible government shutdown. 

Gaetz, one of McCarthy’s most vocal critics, outlined a series of demands earlier this month, threatening to remove the speaker by possibly using a motion to vacate, a rarely used procedural tool. In a speech on the House floor on Sept. 12, Gaetz said he opposes a short-term stopgap measure to fund the government and wants the house to vote on individual spending bills. 

“Do these things or face a motion to vacate the chair,” he said.

Gaetz also warned that there could be daily votes to oust McCarthy. 

“If we have to begin every single day in Congress with the prayer, the pledge and the motion to vacate then so be it," he told reporters earlier this month.

In January, Gaetz led the opposition against McCarthy’s bid for House Speaker, which took 15 rounds of voting over multiple days.

Gaetz, who emerged as a supporter of former President Trump after being elected to the House in 2016, is also the subject a renewed House Ethics Committee investigation. CNN reported in July that the committee had revived an investigation into the lawmaker, who had been the subject of a probe by the same panel when it was controlled by Democrats in 2021. 

The newly opened investigation will look into allegations that Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, converted campaign funds to personal use and accepted a bribe, among other claims. 

Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and a long-running Justice Department investigation concluded in February without bringing charges.