House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) isn’t finished caving to the far-right in his conference, even as they continue to sabotage his attempts at passing party-line spending bills ahead of an imminent government shutdown.
The latest instance came on Friday—just eight days out from a shutdown—when McCarthy bowed to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) demand to remove $300 million in aid for Ukraine from a Pentagon spending bill. The bill was voted down by Greene and other hardliners twice this week, despite usually being one of the easiest government funding measures to pass, and one McCarthy hoped would chart a way forward for passing a wider resolution to divert a shutdown.
The concession underscored the lengths to which McCarthy has been forced to go to appease hardline conservatives who, because of the razor-thin margins in the House, effectively have a gun to the speaker’s head allowing them to get whatever they want at the expense of effective governing.
As such, a small band of far-right House Republicans have continued to thwart McCarthy’s efforts to pass even party-line spending bills until their demands are met, hijacking the House and embarrassing the speaker at every turn. Those spending measures—while inherently dead on arrival in the Senate—would, in practice, build leverage for Republicans once spending negotiations with Democrats begin.
The resulting failure to even agree on spending measures among themselves leaves House Republicans just a week away from a government shutdown borne of their own ineptitude, with little leverage over Democrats and the prospect of being sidestepped entirely by the Senate.
McCarthy told reporters Friday he somehow still hoped to pass a party-line stopgap funding bill ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline, but with no progress being made in the House, some senators were preparing to get off the sidelines and tackle the issue themselves.
A bipartisan group in the Senate was considering a spending package that would be sent to the House next week should the chamber fail to pass its own funding bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told CNN on Friday.
“Leader McConnell and I are talking and we have a great deal of agreement on many parts of this,” Schumer told CNN. “It’s never easy to get a big bill, a CR [continuing resolution] bill done, but I am very, very optimistic that McConnell and I can find a way and get a large number of votes both Democratic and Republican in the Senate.”
A Senate passage of its own spending bill—which notably would include millions in funding for Ukraine decried by the far-right—would not only be yet another humiliation for McCarthy, it would leave him further stuck between the House moderates increasingly fed up with his antics and the few far-right members that could call for his ouster if their demands go unmet.