House Speaker Kevin McCarthy grapples with divided GOP in race to avoid government shutdown

Kevin McCarthy

19th September 2023 – (Washington) U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy finds himself facing the greatest test of his speakership as he works to rally his fractured Republican Party and prevent a federal government shutdown within the next two weeks.

With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-led Senate needing to pass bipartisan funding legislation for next year’s budget before the September 30 deadline, the urgency to avert a government shutdown looms large.

However, House Republicans are grappling with mounting disagreements over spending, policies, and impeachment, which have persisted for months and hindered progress in the Senate towards approving the spending bill.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that a deal proposed by House Republicans to temporarily fund the government is already facing resistance from hardline members within their own party.

By Monday morning, at least twelve Republicans had publicly voiced their opposition to the negotiated continuing resolution, which would keep the government operational until October 31 and trigger a 1 per cent reduction in current fiscal levels.

This 1 per cent cut represents an average reduction across the federal budget, with the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs being spared any cuts while other government agencies would experience an 8 per cent reduction until the end of October.

Critics among Republican hardliners dismissed the short-term funding bill as an extension of Nancy Pelosi’s budget and Joe Biden’s policies.

In an indication that Republican leaders will require more time to garner support for a government funding bill, McCarthy suggested on Monday that the House would remain in session over the upcoming weekend.

The challenges faced by the House Speaker are substantial, as the narrow four-vote margin enjoyed by the GOP in the House could be further eroded due to absences related to medical reasons.

Political observers note that McCarthy cannot afford to lose significant support within his party in order to secure the necessary 218 Republican votes to pass the bill, especially as Democrats remain united in their opposition.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries warned on Sunday that the situation amounts to a “civil war” within the Republican Party.

However, similar to the threatened veto by the White House towards the defence bill, a Reuters report suggests that the short-term stopgap spending bill is unlikely to gain Democratic support and become law.