With war raging in Israel and federal funding weeks away from expiring, policy debates have stalled. Congress has until Nov. 17 to approve a deal to fund the government, or members of the military will lose paychecks, national parks will close and the Internal Revenue Service will bootstrap operations.
It’s a big fight for the GOP, which has been rattled by polling data reported in recent weeks Voters trusted congressional Republicans more than President Biden on economic policy. But now House Republicans are unable to elect a leader. Eight Republicans are vying to win the speakership, but none yet appear to be on track to get the 217 votes needed to win. The party will meet privately on Tuesday to pick a candidate and go to the full House for a vote.
The longer Republicans flounder, the less time the party will have to avoid a government shutdown, for which most GOP members agree they may bear the blame.
“Every day the clock is ticking and they don’t have enough time. It doesn’t matter who wins the speakership because the caucus is now ungovernable,” said Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative-leaning American Action Forum. “There’s good reason to be nervous about a strike. The odds are rising.”
Meanwhile, business continues briskly in the Democratic-controlled Senate as members of both parties negotiate long-term spending bills, the first of which is expected to come up for a vote this week. Senators have mostly come together to support short-term legislation to keep the government open at current spending levels, and they generally support Biden’s $106 billion foreign aid package to support Ukraine and Israel.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went on “Fox News Sunday” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” over the weekend to press the case for what has become Biden’s signature foreign policy legislation — and encourage them to act. .
“I hope they get a speaker soon because it sends a bad message to our allies and enemies around the world,” McConnell said on Fox. “We have work to do, we have appropriations bills to pass. We have a deputy to deal with. So I’m pulling for them to get this done as soon as possible.”
House Republicans last week appeared to settle on an interim plan to reopen the lower chamber for business. In light of the deteriorating situation in Israel and Gaza, Rep. Patrick D. McHenry (RN.C.) was set up to provide Speaker Pro Tempore. The funding deadline is approaching.
But McHenry refused to accept such a proposal. Some lawmakers have argued that McHenry has the authority to introduce legislation, even without specifically defined powers from the House. The pro-Speaker threatened to resign if the calls increased.
“If it sounds like a mess,” said Bobby Kogan, senior director of federal budget policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, “that’s because it’s a mess.”
Whoever is elected speaker will immediately face the same dynamic that led to McCarthy’s demise, the first time a speaker has been fired in the middle of a congressional session.
Faced with an imminent government shutdown in September, McCarthy passed a short-term funding bill known as a “continuing resolution,” or CR, that kept federal operations at current spending levels and rejected a Senate request for aid to Ukraine. But the plan was unpopular with hard-line Republicans, who demanded drastic spending cuts.
Representative. Matt Gates (R-Fla.) threatened to trigger a vote if McCarthy kept the bill on the floor and used Democratic votes to pass it. McCarthy did anyway, daring Getz to invite the new speaker. After Seven other Republicans voted to remove McCarthy, and no Democrats spared him.
“In today’s world, you’re sitting in Congress, gambling to make sure the government is still open,” McCarthy said after his ouster, “and eight people threw you out as speaker, and the Democrats said they wanted to keep the government open. I think you have a real problem. You I think there is a real organizational problem.
After firing McCarthy, the GOP rejected both His second-in-command, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Alternate Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
“Most of us get beat up for not being in office and looking like clowns,” said one House Republican lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the situation candidly. “There’s a sense of urgency this week that hasn’t been there in the past two weeks.”
Hard-line Republicans, particularly in the House Freedom Caucus, have a strong aversion to CRs, preferring instead to pass full-year appropriations bills that fund individual government agencies and programs. They have also rejected spending bills that pass the House using Democratic rather than party-line Republican votes.
But the House has passed only four appropriations bills so far, all at much lower spending levels than McCarthy and Biden agreed to in the current fiscal year during negotiations to suspend the U.S. debt ceiling in the spring. The House now doesn’t have enough time to pass the eight remaining bills — which would spend less than leaders agreed to — and the only option is to reconcile them with the Senate and pass another short-term bill passed with the help of Democrats. Avoid shutdown.
“If we can fill the seats, get the trains back on the tracks, start the exodus, finish the pledge to America, get the appropriations bills passed, get anybody in, avoid a government shutdown — the CR strategy has to be very tight and very clean now — and then we’re coming back from this,” Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) said Monday. “But we have to work as a team.”
Some hard-line Republicans have expressed distaste for the prospect of using Democratic votes to install a speaker or pass legislation after one is elected.
“If we go through with a plan that gives Democrats control of the House of Representatives, we’re not without a majority,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said Thursday. “This is a colossal betrayal of our Republican voters.”
Earlier speaker candidates said they would use the CR to fund the government. Scalise acknowledged during his speakership that colleagues needed a CR to keep the government open as appropriations work continued without a leader.
Jordan presented members with a lengthy continuing resolution that would extend until the end of April, using major budget cuts to force hard-right Republicans and Democrats to the negotiating table after April 30. Those cuts were part of the same deal between McCarthy and Biden
A key vote that overwhelmed Jordan was Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said last week.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), added another anti-Jordan vote: “I think [House Democrats] At some point they will be hard pressed not to vote for a clean CR in hopes of negotiating with the Senate.
Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.