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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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.

6:07 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

It is after 6 p.m. ET in DC and Congress still has no deal. Here's the latest on the looming shutdown

From CNN staff

Congress remains on track Friday to trigger a government shutdown, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy suffered another high-profile defeat when the chamber failed to advance a last-ditch stopgap bill to extend government funding beyond Saturday.

The failed vote will ramp up pressure on McCarthy who is facing the most significant challenge to his leadership to date. The speaker is locked in a conflict with hardline conservatives who oppose passing a short-term extension to avert a shutdown, arguing Congress should instead focus on passing full-year spending bills.

With Congress at an impasse, the federal government is preparing for a shutdown when government funding runs out at midnight on Saturday.

If you are just tuning in, here's what you need to know:

Ongoing discussions: After the House failed to pass the stopgap bill, McCarthy told Republicans at a closed-door conference meeting there aren’t many options to avoid a shutdown, according to sources in room.

He told his members they can either approve the GOP’s stop-gap plan that failed, accept a Senate proposal, put a “clean” stopgap on the floor to dare Democrats to block it — or shut down the government. A large number of House Republicans have already vocally criticized the Senate proposal, making that unlikely to pass in the chamber.

On Thursday, the speaker refused to say whether he would try to cut a deal with Democrats – a step that could prompt conservatives to move to oust him from the speakership.

What happened during the stopgap vote: Twenty-one Republicans crossed over to vote with every Democrat against the stopgap bill on Friday for a vote of 232-198. The measure – a 30-day extension that would slash funding from current levels — also includes strict GOP-led border policies. House GOP leadership hoped that border security provisions tucked into the temporary measure would force hardliners’ hands — but it was not enough.

What's happening in the Senate: The Senate is working to advance a bipartisan stopgap bill that would keep the government open through November 17 and provide additional aid to Ukraine and disaster relief. McCarthy has so far dismissed that bill.

It could take until Monday to pass the Senate’s bill to keep the government open if GOP Sen. Rand Paul slows down the process — as he has vowed to do — over his demand that the bill drop the $6.2 billion in aid to Ukraine it contains, according to senators. That would put it past the Saturday evening shutdown deadline.

Consequences of missing the deadline: A shutdown could have enormous impacts across the country, in consequential areas ranging from air travel to clean drinking water, as many government operations would come to a halt, while services deemed “essential” would continue.

The White House has also warned of shutdown impacts to national security, including the 1.3 million active-duty troops who would not get paid.

CNN's Clare Foran, Haley Talbot and Kristin Wilson contributed reporting to this post. 

6:10 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

Senate recesses until noon tomorrow

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer and Manu Raju

The Senate has recessed until noon Saturday, which pushes their next procedural vote on their short-term spending bill to the afternoon.  

The procedural vote is expected at 1 p.m. ET tomorrow — but this is one of two more procedural votes needed before final passage.

It could take all weekend to run the clock since Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, has vowed to use his power to drag out the process over his objections about Ukraine aid included in the bill.

The exact time for final passage in Senate is unclear because of the way the chamber operates, but it could be late Monday.

More on the talks: Earlier, Senate Appropriations chairwoman Patty Murray objected to GOP Sen. Ron Johnson’s attempt to pass a two-week stopgap spending bill in the Senate by unanimous consent. 

Johnson’s version of the spending bill did not include additional funding for Ukraine, national disasters, or the border. It was an extension of current funding levels until October 14, 2023.

“Let’s try and pass something people agree with, which is a bill that will prevent a government shutdown,” he said.

However, Murray pushed back.

“We can't be back here in this same situation in two weeks. We need a CR (continuing resolution) that gives us the actual time to get through our bipartisan spending bills. Believe me, I would love to say we can get them done in two weeks. But we know that's not realistic,” she said, noting that Johnson’s bill also leaves out reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration and pay for wildland firefighters.

This comes as senators are working to pass their version of a short-term funding bill, which, as written, would last 45 days and would include some additional aid for Ukraine and natural disasters. Senate Republicans have been working on a border security amendment, but have not come to an agreement yet, and Sen. Rand Paul has vowed that he will slow down consideration of any spending bill that includes Ukraine funding.

6:10 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

Gaetz’s war against McCarthy could leave Democrats in the middle ahead of funding deadline

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

With the clock ticking down toward a government shutdown, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz approached a Democratic lawmaker on the House floor this week with a surprising pitch.

Gaetz, who has been threatening Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s speakership almost daily, explained that his rebellion is motivated by a desire to find new leadership that keeps their word, tells the truth, and adheres to regular order – a message that this Democrat described to CNN as “utterly reasonable.”

Gaetz then floated veteran Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma and House GOP Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota as two alternative examples he had in mind, and then attempted to gauge whether this member would be open to supporting an effort to oust McCarthy. The Democrat told CNN there’s been internal discussions about a wide range of potential asks – from power-sharing agreements to policy ideas.

“In the last 48 hours, he’s not just talking to Democrats. I’m talking about like, the furthest left most progressive Democrats to moderates,” the House Democrat told CNN. “He’s a salesman right now.”

Asked about working with Democrats on his McCarthy ouster effort, Gaetz said: “The subject has come up, but it’s not my focus.” He also emphasized has not tried to offer any concessions to Democrats in exchange for their help.

“I have made no offer to Democrats and I would not,” he said.

But McCarthy’s critics aren’t the only ones privately courting House Democrats to play for their team in the ongoing speaker drama. GOP moderates and pragmatic members have also been working Democrats on a plan to get them out of a likely government shutdown and build a consensus to save McCarthy if he faces a so-called “motion to vacate” the speaker’s chair – an effort that has taken on more urgency since a House GOP stopgap bill failed on the floor Friday at the hands of conservative hardliners.

“There’s a number of us … that are prepared to take the next action we need to take,” said GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who is working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to circumvent leadership if there is a stalemate in the House – a process known as a discharge petition.

Keep reading here.

5:32 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

McCarthy is telling Republicans there aren't many options to avoid government shutdown, sources say

From CNN's Manu Raju, Annie Grayer, Lauren Fox and Haley Talbot

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy pauses as he addresses reporters about efforts to pass appropriations bills and avert a looming government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on Friday, September 29.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy pauses as he addresses reporters about efforts to pass appropriations bills and avert a looming government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on Friday, September 29. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Speaker Kevin McCarthy is telling Republicans now there aren’t many options to avoid a government shutdown, according to sources in a closed door conference meeting.  

He says they can approve the GOP’s stopgap plan that failed this afternoon, accept the Senate plan, put a “clean” stopgap on the floor to dare Democrats to block it — or shut down the government, the sources say.

Also in the meeting, House Republican leadership has proposed members stay in session the next two weeks to vote on more single-subject appropriations bills, according to multiple lawmakers in the room. This plan will not help avert a government shutdown this weekend.

Republicans are hoping that the leadership’s proposed schedule change will convince some hold outs to support a short-term government funding option in the meantime until the House can get the single-subject bills passed.

The House was supposed to be out the next two weeks. But with a government shutdown looming, that schedule is now fully in flux. 

4:50 p.m. ET, September 29, 2023

Mitch McConnell warns of political backlash from a shutdown

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters following the Senate Republicans weekly policy lunch at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 12.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters following the Senate Republicans weekly policy lunch at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 12. Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning his colleagues about the political backlash of a government shutdown with less than two days remaining for lawmakers to extend federal funding.

"All this week, and every time we've found ourselves in the situation before, I've offered my colleagues the same warning: Shutting down the government doesn't help anybody politically,” he said during a speech on the Senate floor.

A shutdown would have sweeping impacts and many government operations would come to a halt, and only services deemed “essential” would continue.

McConnell argued that failing to pass funding to keep the government open doesn't make any progress toward policy priorities and "heaps unnecessary hardships on the American people, as well as the brave men and women who keep us safe.”

He called on his fellow senators to continue working through their amendments to ultimately avert a shutdown. 

“Right now, I'm encouraged that many of our colleagues who share my concerns are working hard on amendments to strengthen the pending legislation and avert the disastrous effects of a shutdown," he said.

The Senate is working to advance a bipartisan stopgap bill that would keep the government open through November 17 and provide additional aid to Ukraine and disaster relief. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has so far dismissed that bill.