The specter of a government shutdown in the United States intensified on Thursday as House Republicans prepared to reject a last-minute funding proposal emerging from the Senate. With a looming deadline of midnight on Saturday, Congress is racing against time to pass a new budget, failing which thousands of federal employees face the prospect of unpaid leave.
Steadfast House Republicans
Despite efforts in the Senate to craft a temporary funding agreement with bipartisan support, House Republicans, led by Kevin McCarthy, remain steadfast in their opposition. McCarthy expressed optimism about reaching an agreement but acknowledged the challenges, stating, “I wake up every day optimistic… put your money on me. We will get this done.”
On Thursday, the Senate cleared a procedural vote for a short-term funding bill, pushing for a government shutdown delay until November 17. However, the bill’s fate hinges on House approval, where a faction of hardline Republicans, numbering at least nine, refuses to endorse any stopgap measure. This group has previously threatened to remove McCarthy as House Speaker if he relies on Democratic votes to pass a funding bill.
Joe Biden Expresses Concern
President Joe Biden voiced concern, suggesting that McCarthy faces a choice between the speakership and American interests. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged McCarthy to resist pressure from the far-right within his party. The House is set to vote on its short-term spending bills on Friday, though their chances of passing in the Senate are slim.
McCarthy hinted at potential ways to avoid a shutdown, proposing the inclusion of border security provisions in the Senate’s short-term funding bill. He emphasized ongoing discussions with Democratic senators aligned with these proposals.
The House leader also mentioned a conversation with President Biden regarding the establishment of a national commission to address the national debt. However, while preparing for a last-minute deal, the White House clarified that Biden has no immediate plans to meet with McCarthy.
In recent months, McCarthy has grappled with a widening ideological divide within his Republican caucus. A small but influential right-wing faction demands fiscal conservatism, complicating the passage of spending bills. McCarthy may find himself forced to collaborate with Democrats to secure passage, a move that could trigger a motion to oust him as Speaker.
As the nation watches the unfolding political drama, the possibility of a government shutdown remains critical, highlighting the urgent need for bipartisan cooperation in resolving budgetary disputes. The next few days will prove pivotal in determining whether a fiscal compromise can be reached before the midnight deadline on Saturday.