GOP spending bills falter as Congress struggles to avoid gov't shutdown

U.S. Senate Democrats said Tuesday they are preparing their own
short-term spending bill that they believe will garner bipartisan
support, a decision that could stave off a partial government shutdown —
and as House Republicans failed to advance two spending bills.

The Senate move would work as long as the House votes to approve
whatever measures the Senate comes up with, but it’s unclear what’s
going to pass in the deeply divided House.

“I’m working hard here in the Senate to make sure we do put together a
bipartisan CR that will deliver on the necessary funding for disaster
relief, supporting Ukraine, paying our wildland firefighters and more,”
Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray said, referring to a continuing
resolution, or CR.

“We need to show the American people that Congress can come together
and help people and solve problems,” the Washington state Democrat
added.

The announcement came as Republicans in the U.S. House, led by
Speaker Kevin McCarthy, remained stuck in the mud, unable to reach
consensus on a short-term government funding bill as well as a path
forward for the dozen full-year government spending bills.

House GOP leaders couldn’t find the votes needed Tuesday to advance a
31-day government funding bill that two factions of their own members
agreed to just this past weekend. The lack of support forced them to
pull a key procedural vote from the schedule a few minutes before the
chamber came into session.

House Republicans were also unable to win enough votes to adopt the
rule that would have set up debate and a final approval vote on the
full-year Defense spending bill. That floor vote was 212-214, with five GOP lawmakers voting against adopting the rule.

Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina,
Ken Buck of Colorado, Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Matt Rosendale
of Montana voted against the rule, needed under House procedures to
begin debate on bills that lack two-thirds support.

‘Reckless, cruel CR’

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer chided House Republicans for
their partisanship, saying during a press conference the House GOP’s
short-term spending bill is a “non starter.”

“It’s a slapdash, reckless, cruel CR,” Schumer said.

The New York Democrat said he wants the Senate to come together on a
bipartisan continuing resolution, though he didn’t get into details.

“Our first job is to get the House to pass something. We’ll see if
they can. But we need a bipartisan bill in each body,” Schumer said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pushed back
against the idea of a partial government shutdown, saying what is
“critically important to the American people is for the government not
(to) shut down.”

But McConnell said he couldn’t “predict exactly how this ends” and
appeared to leave room for the Senate to move its own short-term
spending bill.

“We’ll see what the House does and act accordingly,” he said.

McConnell didn’t voice support for the House CR, but said he supports “what the speaker is trying to accomplish.”

“He’s trying to avoid a government shutdown,” McConnell said.

Wisconsin senator slammed

Continuing resolutions, or CRs, are regularly used to keep the
government funded for a couple of months while the House and Senate
finish work on the 12 annual spending bills.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved all of those bills on
broadly bipartisan votes earlier this year and the Senate began debating
three of them this month.

But that debate hit a snag last week when Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson blocked amendment votes on a three-bill spending package.

Murray criticized Johnson for blocking last week’s votes, as did New
Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who chairs the
Commerce-Justice-Science spending panel.

“Make no mistake,” Shaheen said during Tuesday’s press conference.
“This was an effort to help extremists in the House shut down the
government.”

Murray said that while she is working to secure an agreement to
quickly hold amendment votes, the Senate on Wednesday will hold a
procedural vote “to get things rolling.”

“If we aren’t able to keep our bills moving on the floor, then an
omnibus will be where we end up,” Murray said, referring to a huge
package of all the spending bills. “I personally do not want to let a
few members cause chaos and stop other senators, especially those who
have not served on the Appropriations Committee, from weighing in on
these bills on the Senate floor.”

Spending patch

Congress is supposed to pass the dozen annual government funding
measures before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, though
lawmakers rarely complete their work on time.

So for more than two decades, lawmakers have leaned on a short-term
stopgap spending bill that’s often called a continuing resolution to
extend government funding for a couple of months.

But especially conservative House Republicans are furious the
short-term spending bill would extend funding levels and policies
approved last December during unified Democratic control of Congress.

So House Republicans are attempting to reduce domestic spending in
the short-term government spending bill and add in several bills that
stand no chance of passing the Democratically controlled Senate.

Oklahoma’s Cole: ‘Give and take and discussion’

House Rules Chair Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said during floor
debate on the rule for the Defense funding bill that passing spending
bills through that chamber is just one step in the process.

Appropriations subcommittee chairs in the House and Senate will
eventually need to head to conference to reconcile their differences.

“As my friends know, the Democrats control the United States Senate
and we have a Democrat as the president of the United States,” Cole
said. “So wherever we end up, it’s going to be a process of give and
take and discussion. But it’s important that the House has an opening
position.”

Efforts to work out final spending bills that can pass both the House
and Senate would be considerably sidetracked if Congress doesn’t
approve a short-term stopgap spending bill before Oct. 1.

Compromise on such a continuing resolution continued to elude House Republicans on Tuesday.

House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry told reporters following a
closed-door meeting that members have two choices on government funding.

“One path is where we offer something and the American people can see
what we stand for,” said Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican. “And the
other path is, quite honestly, accepting whatever the Senate sends us,
which is likely to be 100% worse than everything and anything that we
stand for.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved all 12 of the annual
government funding bills with broadly bipartisan votes. All of the
House’s bills approved in committee were approved solely with GOP
lawmaker support.

House Republicans, Perry said, need to understand that collectively
they represent millions of Americans and that there will be different
opinions about funding levels and policy throughout the process.

“You’re not going to get every single thing that you want,” Perry
said. “But if you don’t do something, you’re not going to get anything.”

House GOP ‘personality conflicts’

Arkansas Republican Rep. Steve Womack, chair of the Financial
Services appropriations subcommittee, said following the morning meeting
that the conference was still “heavily divided” on how to fund the
government past the Oct. 1 deadline.

Womack said the disagreements are not just about spending levels or
federal policy, but about personal dynamics within the House GOP
Conference.

“I think there are personality conflicts at work involving certain
members and the speaker and that this is coming down to a situation
where they want to fight the speaker,” Womack said.

“And that is really unfortunate. We’re the governing majority with a
narrow majority, and we have to have everybody on the rope pulling in
the same direction,” he added. “And I think you’ve got some folks in our
conference, who just simply will not pull their weight in the direction
that conference legitimately needs to go”

Some especially conservative House Republicans, such as Florida’s
Matt Gaetz, have threatened to remove McCarthy through a motion to
vacate, which any one lawmaker can bring up for a floor vote.

Gaetz has argued that the California Republican has not kept his
promises made in private to hard-line Republicans in January in order to
secure his position as speaker.

One of those promises, Gaetz said, was members would vote on each
spending bill individually, rather than together as an omnibus.

“This was promised, and it has not been delivered,” he said.

Gaetz said that he would not support any continuing resolution, or
CR, that would fund the government at current spending levels.

“My objective this week is to defeat this CR,” Gaetz said. “I do not have an objective beyond that.”

Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, who sits on the House Rules Committee, said that he does not fear a government shutdown.

“When you go into a shutdown, you need to have a message that all of your conference can stick with to the end,” he said.