He has long criticized Washington for underestimating him. McCarthy has long criticised Washington for underestimating his abilities. McCarthy, the California Republican, said that when the crunch comes, people who have been blaming others for so long will finally move on. “Because shutting down — and having border agents not be paid, your Coast Guard not get paid — I don’t see how that’s good.”
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. McCarthy, like them, has tried different 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 more concessions.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is surrounded by reporters looking for updates on plans to fund the government and avert a shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
All the while, McCarthy has retreated from his budget deal with Biden months ago that established the spending threshold for the year. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who is leading the fight, told reporters Thursday that “if you look at the events of the last two weeks, things seem to be coming my way.” 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 borrowing limit.
“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 continues.
“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 Congress 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 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 of 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.”
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.