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House Republicans’ disarray imperils funding for all federal agencies

The GOP majority has again scrapped plans to vote on must-pass legislation, making another federal government shutdown likely.

By Josh Israel and Emily Singer - September 15, 2023
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Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen on the House floor during a vote in which he did not receive enough votes to become Speaker of the House, on Wednesday, January 4, 2023.
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen on the House floor during a vote in which he did not receive enough votes to become Speaker of the House, on Wednesday, January 4, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

The federal government is once again on the brink of a shutdown, as the Republican House majority finds itself paralyzed by infighting and unable to shepherd must-pass legislation through the chamber.

House Republicans canceled a planned Wednesday vote on critical legislation to fund the nation’s defense. Unless they act soon, much of the federal government will shut down on Oct. 1, with disastrous impacts on the U.S. economy.

The stalemate is in large part due to a large group of right-wing agitators in the House Freedom Caucus who are demanding steep cuts to federal spending that violate an agreement House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) struck with President Joe Biden earlier this year. Such cuts would have no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Those representatives are threatening to strip McCarthy of his gavel if he does not acquiesce to their demands.

Frustrated by his own conference’s chaos, McCarthy yelled at his members on Thursday morning during a closed-door meeting. He warned them that it’s Republicans who will shoulder the blame if the government shuts down and dared them to make good on their promise to oust him as speaker, Politico reported.

“Go ahead. I’m not f—king scared of it. Any new speaker will do what I’m doing,” McCarthy said, an unnamed Republican lawmaker who was in the meeting told Politico.

McCarthy criticized his own Republican members, saying Republicans won’t agree to pass the annual defense appropriation bill that they advanced through committee in June. That bill was loaded with provisions popular with Republicans and opposed by Democrats, who say the bill undermines reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ inclusion, diversity, and climate change resilience.

According to the Sept. 11 weekly schedule posted by Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), the bill was to be debated and voted on this week on Wednesday and Thursday. But on Wednesday, the schedule was revised and the defense appropriations legislation was removed from consideration due to a lack of agreement within the Republican caucus on a path forward.

The same thing happened with an agriculture appropriations bill in July, just before the August recess. To date, the House has passed just one of 12 annual appropriations bills needed to keep the government operational after September.

“I don’t understand how members, they have no complaint about the [Department of Defense] bill, but they don’t want to pass it,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman. “I got a small group of members who don’t want to vote for [a continuing resolution], don’t want to vote for individual bills and don’t want to vote for an Omni. I’m not quite sure what they want.”

Some GOP lawmakers have indicated they are not happy with the disorder.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) told reporters on Wednesday that the canceled vote “means we’re in trouble,” advising them, “Fasten your seat belts because it’s going to be a shit show,” according to Politico.

Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales tweeted a GIF of the “This is fine” meme of a cartoon dog sitting in a burning house. “16 days until a government shutdown and the House is taking Friday off to enjoy a 3 day weekend,” he wrote.

Recent government shutdowns have reduced the nation’s gross domestic product by billions of dollars’ worth, harmed scientific research, halted safety inspections, and paused veterans’ services, according to a 2019 blog post published by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a tax-exempt group that advocates for economic austerity.

The White House warned in August that a shutdown would imperil food aid for millions of lower-income Americans, as the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program is about to run out of money and needs to be replenished through legislation.

After they won a narrow majority in the House, it took Republicans 15 tries to elect a speaker. They failed to advance their promised “first two weeks” agenda, and they didn’t keep their promises to lower costs and ensure public safety.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized McCarthy’s ineffectiveness for the dysfunction in the House.

“I think it’s the incredibly shrinking speakership,” Pelosi said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night, referring to concessions McCarthy made to right-wing members to win the speaker vote in January. “It became that the first night when he had to make all these pledges, promises to become speaker. Really, it isn’t worth it to be speaker to abdicate that much jurisdiction over the House.”

Pelosi added, “This is not responsible governance, but it’s the chaos on the Republican side.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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