Shutdown watch: McCarthy all but hands the gavel to Gaetz
Shutdown watch: McCarthy all but hands the gavel to Gaetz

Following House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s second stunning defeat in just three days, he cried “uncle,” calling it quits for the day. There reportedly weren’t enough votes for the House to officially adjourn, possibly because some Republicans apparently didn’t want to hang around just to vote to leave.

That’s how seriously they take McCarthy, who declared on Monday, “I’ve told all of Congress you’re not going to go home. We’re going to continue to work through this.” On Wednesday, he told reporters there would be Saturday votes this week. Leadership is still threatening that the House may reconvene as soon as Friday. Since few in McCarthy’s conference seem to take him seriously, with some reportedly already booking it out of town, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be able to get enough of them back to the House chamber to pass anything.

If they don’t come back this weekend, they won’t meet again until next Tuesday, after observing Yom Kippur on Monday.

The defeat on moving forward with defense appropriations Thursday was a surprise. According to members who were in the meeting, McCarthy was certain after meetings Wednesday that he had enough votes to advance the defense spending bill. Two of his extremist caucus members—Marjorie Taylor Greene and Eli Crane—upended his plans when they voted against moving the defense bill forward. “Two people flipped so I got to figure out how to fix that,” McCarthy said after the vote. “That wasn’t the impression they had given us.”

This is very much a moving target, but as of Thursday afternoon, McCarthy’s plan to salvage all this was to, in essence, hand the gavel to chief chaos agent Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Gaetz proposed scrapping the effort to pass a stopgap funding bill and instead bring up the individual funding bills for each department—11 out of 12 of which are still outstanding (they passed one in July) at funding levels below what passed in the Appropriations Committee. Oh, and doing it between Tuesday and Sunday of next week, to meet the Sept. 30 deadline.

If McCarthy follows that plan, and it looks like he intends to, it means no stopgap funding bill. Gaetz told reporters following a meeting with leadership Thursday afternoon that his plan had been adopted, and what’s more, he said that he wouldn’t ever vote for a continuing resolution. That precludes any effort to keep the government open as the House and Senate figure out the full appropriations bills for the new fiscal year. It means the government would definitely shut down, because the House would be working on new appropriations bills—a process that also requires a back-and-forth with the Senate—rather than the immediate funding.

That’s if it happens, and with Gaetz apparently in charge now, all bets are off.

The Senate finished work for the week early, as well, with no agreement from Republicans on moving its spending plan forward. The meltdown in the House could drive Senate Republicans to relent and work with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats on a continuing resolution next week. It seems that the only way to avoid a shutdown is for a united Senate to pass a continuing resolution and land it on McCarthy’s doorstep at the last possible minute, forcing him to either adopt it with the help of Democrats or shut the government down.

Sign if you agree: No more MAGA circus. Hakeem Jeffries for Speaker!

RELATED STORIES:

McCarthy fails. Again

House Republicans are eating their own over funding bill

Joan McCarter

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