Concessions Never Enough 09/24 07:52
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Staring down a fast-approaching government shutdown that
threatens to disrupt life for millions of Americans, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has
turned to a strategy that so far has preserved his tenuous hold on House
leadership but also marked it by chaos: giving hard-right lawmakers what they
In his eight months running the House, McCarthy has lived by the upbeat
personal mantra of "never give up" as he dodges threats to his speakership and
tries to portray Republicans as capable stewards of the U.S. government. He has
long chided Washington for underestimating him.
But with the House GOP majority in turmoil, all but certain to hurl the
country into a shutdown, McCarthy has set aside the more traditional tools of
the gavel to keep rebels in line. Instead, he has acceded to a small band led
by those instigating his ouster, even if that means closing federal offices.
It's an untested strategy that has left McCarthy deeply frustrated, his
allies rushing to his side and his grip on power ever more uncertain with the
Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government a week away.
"We still have a number of days," McCarthy said Saturday as he arrived at
"I think when it gets crunch time people will finally, that have been
holding off all this time blaming everybody else, will finally hopefully move
off," the California Republican said. "Because shutting down -- and having
border agents not be paid, your Coast Guard not get paid -- I don't see how
Governing with a narrow House majority, the speaker is facing a more
virulent strain of the hard-right tactics that chased the two most recent
Republican speakers before him, Reps. John Boehner of Ohio and Paul Ryan of
Wisconsin, into early retirement. Like them, McCarthy has tried various tactics
to restore order. But more than ever, McCarthy finds himself swept along as
far-right lawmakers, determined to bend Washington to their will, take control
in the House.
McCarthy tried to win conservatives' support by agreeing to their demand for
impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden and then by meeting their calls
for spending cuts, only to be turned back whenever a few of them hold out for
All the while, McCarthy has retreated from his budget deal with Biden months
ago that established the spending threshold for the year. Instead, he is trying
to reduce spending more in line with the level he promised the right flank
during his tumultuous fight to become the House speaker.
Yet all the concessions seem to never be enough.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who is leading the fight, crowed to reporters
Thursday that, "if you look at the events of the last two weeks, things seem to
be kind of coming my way."
Gaetz said he was delivering a eulogy for short-term funding legislation
known as a continuing resolution -- a mechanism traditionally used to keep the
government functioning during spending debates.
Democrats have been eager to lay blame for the impending shutdown on
McCarthy and the dysfunction in the House. Biden has called on McCarthy to
stick to the annual spending numbers they negotiated to raise the nation's
"He handed over the gavel to the most extreme in his party," said
Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, a senior Democrat.
With the House at a standstill and lawmakers at home for the weekend,
McCarthy has turned to the plan advanced by Gaetz to start processing some of
the nearly dozen annual spending bills needed to fund the various government
departments and shelving for now the idea of stopgap approach while the work
It's a nearly impossible task as Congress runs out of time to find a
short-term spending plan.
"We can in no way pass 11 bills in eight days," said Connecticut Rep. Rosa
DeLauro, the top Democrat appropriator, referring to the number of bills the
House would have to approve before Sept. 30.
DeLauro, a veteran lawmaker, estimated it would take at least six weeks to
pass the bills in both chambers of Congress, then negotiate them between the
House and Senate. She urged Republicans to embrace a continuing resolution to
allow government agencies to stay open.
Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, one of McCarthy's closest
allies, has pointed out that the Senate has advanced legislation at spending
levels above those in the deal reached with Biden. He argues that House
Republicans need to pass their own bills at the lower numbers to strengthen
their hand in negotiations.
For Congress to solve the current impasse, many expect that it will take a
bipartisan coalition that leaves McCarthy's right flank behind. That would be
certain to spark a challenge to his leadership.
In the Senate, Democratic and Republican leaders are working on a package
that would fund the government at levels far higher than the House Republicans
are demanding and include emergency disaster aid and money for Ukraine, which
some GOP House members oppose.
"Eventually, we're going to get something back from the U.S. Senate and it's
not going to be to our liking," said Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack, a leading
Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. "Then the speaker will have a
very difficult decision."