Congress is lurching toward a shutdown that would begin early Sunday morning, with House Republicans battling one another and the Senate moving forward with a bipartisan plan that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has not committed to bringing to a vote in the House.
Senators are poised to vote Saturday afternoon on a bill to fund the government until Nov. 17. The legislation includes $6.15 billion for Ukraine and $6 billion for disaster relief.
McCarthy has drawn a line in the sand on Ukraine funding, and he floated the idea Friday night of a “clean” measure that would not include funding for Ukraine.
A number of conservatives in McCarthy’s conference would oppose such a measure, and it would need Democratic support to pass.
The Senate bill, if approved by the upper chamber, would likely pass the House if it were given a vote on the floor.
But a majority of the House GOP conference voted against a measure Thursday on Ukraine aid, and bringing the bill to the floor could come with political pain for McCarthy, who is working under the threat of a “motion to vacate” from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and other opponents that would essentially be a vote to remove him as Speaker.
McCarthy, who refuses to work with House Democrats, hasn’t been able to pass a government funding stopgap with just Republican votes because a small group of conservatives has refused to go along with his spending strategy.
The Speaker suffered yet another setback on the House floor Friday when 21 Republicans voted with Democrats to defeat a House GOP-drafted proposal to fund the government until Oct. 31 that would implement steep cuts to federal spending outside the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.
It was the latest aborted attempt to pass a continuing resolution through the House. House leaders canceled a procedural vote on a stopgap funding measure last week because of divisions in their conference.
That’s put the ball in the Senate’s court, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sticking to his plan of passing a six-week government funding bill with money for Ukraine and disaster relief, which he described as a “bridge” to give leaders more time to negotiate a longer-term spending deal.
The Senate is scheduled to convene at noon Saturday and will then vote to advance a 79-page continuing resolution unveiled earlier in the week.
Schumer hasn’t announced the precise timing of that vote in part because Republican senators are trying to craft an amendment to the bill with the help of independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) to stem the flow of migrants over the U.S.-Mexico border.
The potential amendment, however, had yet to be drafted when GOP senators discussed it at a lunch meeting Friday, and negotiators were in the process of checking with the Senate parliamentarian to ensure it could be adopted with only a simple majority under the Senate rules.
The big question ahead of Saturday’s vote in the Senate is whether the continuing resolution will muster the 60 votes it needs to advance, something made more complicated by the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was expected to vote for the bill.
Several Republicans have already indicated they plan to support the legislation, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, have also signaled they support the stopgap.
“Shutting down the government doesn’t help anybody politically. It doesn’t make any meaningful progress on policy. And it heaps unnecessary hardships on the American people as well as the brave men and women who keep us safe,” McConnell warned Thursday afternoon.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who’s involved in the talks on adding border security amendments to the bill, said he hopes the funding measure will pass the Senate even if the border amendment fails to secure enough votes to ride along.
Some possible swing votes, such as Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairwoman Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), said they hoped something could be done to address the border situation.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned Thursday that it would be hard for him to vote for a stopgap without changes to improve border security.
Senate conservatives are trying to whip up opposition to the bill, arguing that it has little chance in the House and instead proposing a two-week stopgap funding measure without money for Ukraine or disaster relief.
“The only thing that I think will pass the House and the Senate is a clean [continuing resolution] without Ukraine funding on it,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has vowed to drag out the floor consideration of the Senate bill for as long as possible if it includes money for Ukraine.
McCarthy on Friday afternoon told reporters a clean continuing resolution passed by the Senate could come to the floor in the House, offering a possible last-minute path to avoid 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 that could cause real problems,” he said.
Any such bill, however, would need significant support from House Democrats to offset the group of House conservatives who don’t want to vote for a short-term funding measure under any circumstances.
So far, Democrats don’t appear at all keen to pass a two-week funding measure without Ukraine money, which was a proposal that Republican senators discussed Friday.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) objected to Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) request on the Senate floor to pass a two-week funding resolution without Ukraine or disaster money.
“We can’t be back here in this same situation in two weeks. We need a [continuing resolution] that gives us the actual time to get through our bipartisan spending bills,” she said, referring to the 12 annual appropriations bills that passed through her committee earlier this year.
“I would love to say we can get them done in two weeks, but we know that’s not realistic,” she said.
She also criticized Johnson’s proposal of not reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, which she warned would mean “chaos for air travel.” She also argued it wouldn’t extend Ukraine aid or disaster relief.
A two-week stopgap funding measure is getting more attention from House conservatives. Some of them have now proposed shortening the span of the failed House GOP-drafted resolution to fund the government until Oct. 31.
Emily Brooks contributed.