WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy rushed Friday into a last-ditch plan to keep the federal government temporarily open — but with steep spending cuts of nearly 30 percent to many agencies and severe border security provisions demanded by his hard-right flank though with almost no chance in the Democratic Senate.
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The package cleared a procedural vote Friday but final passage in the afternoon was uncertain, testing whether the embattled McCarthy has the support he needs from his slim Republican majority. So far, the right flank has rejected his efforts as they push McCarthy closer to their demands, threaten his ouster and risk a government shutdown.
The Republican speaker all but dared his hold-out colleagues to oppose it a day before Saturday’s almost certain shutdown. The bill would keep operations open through Oct. 31.
“Every member will have to go on record where they stand,” the Republican McCarthy said at the Capitol.
Asked if he had the votes, McCarthy quipped, “We’ll see.”
As soon as the floor debate began, McCarthy’s chief Republican critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, announced he would be voting against the package, calling its border security provisions insufficient and urging his colleagues to “not surrender.”
The federal government is heading straight into a shutdown after midnight Saturday that would leave 2 million military troops without pay, furlough federal works and disrupt government services and programs that Americans rely on from coast-to coast. Congress has been unable to fund the agencies or pass a temporary bill to keep offices open.
While the Senate is pushing ahead Friday with its own widely bipartisan plan favored by Republicans and Democrats to keep government open, and bolster Ukraine aid and U.S. disaster accounts, the House has been in political chaos as the hard-right flank seized control.
The White House has declined McCarthy’s overtures to meet with President Joe Biden after the speaker walked away from the debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set budget levels.
“Extreme House Republicans are now tripling down on their demands to eviscerate programs millions of hardworking families count on,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre said, “The path forward to fund the government has been laid out by the Senate with bipartisan support — House Republicans just need to take it.”
Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy has returned to the lower spending limits they demanded back in January as part of the deal-making to help him become the House speaker.
The package would not cut the Defense, Veterans or Homeland Security departments, but would slash almost all other agencies by up to 30 percent — steep hits to a vast array of programs, services and departments Americans routinely depend on.
It also adds strict new border security provisions that would kickstart building the wall at the Southern border with Mexico, among other measures. Additionally, the package would set up a bipartisan debt commission to address the nation’s mounting debt load.
The hard-right led by Gaetz has been threatening McCarthy’s ouster, with a looming vote to try to remove him from the speaker’s office unless he meets the conservative demands. Still, it’s unclear if any other Republican would have support from the House majority to lead the party.