WASHINGTON (AP) — We’re staring at one fast approaching Government shutdown that threatens disrupting the lives of millions of Americansspeaker Kevin McCarthy has turned to a strategy that has so far preserved his tenuous grip on House leadership but has also marked it with chaos: giving right-wing extremist lawmakers What you want.
In his eight months run the houseMcCarthy has lived by the optimistic personal mantra of “never give up” when he gets out of dodge Threats against his spokesperson and attempts to portray Republicans as capable stewards of the U.S. government. He has long accused Washington of underestimating him.
But with the GOP majority in the House in turmoil and the country all but certain to plunge into a shutdown, McCarthy has set aside the more traditional tools of the gavel Keep the rebels at bay. Instead, he has joined a small gang led by those who plotted his overthrow, even if it means closing federal offices.
It’s an untested strategy that has left McCarthy deeply frustrated, his allies rushing to his side and his grip on power growing increasingly uncertain with the government’s Sept. 30 funding deadline just a week away.
“We still have a few days left,” McCarthy said Saturday as he arrived at the Capitol.
“I think when push comes to shove, hopefully the people who have been hesitant all this time to blame everyone else will finally give in,” the California Republican said. “Because the closure — and the fact that border guards aren’t getting paid, your Coast Guard isn’t getting paid — I don’t see how that’s a good thing.”
As the speaker controls the House with a narrow majority, he faces an even worse version of the right-wing tactics that drove the two most recent Republican speakers before him, Reps. John Boehner of Ohio and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, into early retirement has. Like them, McCarthy tried various tactics to restore order. But more than ever, McCarthy is being swept along as far-right lawmakers determined to bend Washington to their will take control of the House.
McCarthy tried to win the support of conservatives by agreeing to their demand Impeachment inquiry in President Joe Biden and then by meeting their demands Spending cutsonly to be rebuffed when some of them wait for further concessions.
Meanwhile, McCarthy has withdrawn from his Budget deal with Biden The spending threshold for the year was set months ago. Instead, he is trying to cut spending more closely to the levels he promised the right flank during his tumultuous battle to become House speaker.
But all concessions never seem to be enough.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who is leading the fight, gushed to reporters Thursday: “Looking at the events of the last two weeks, things seem to be kind of coming my way.”
Gaetz said he was eulogizing the short-term funding legislation known as a continuing resolution — a mechanism traditionally used to keep the government running during spending debates.
Democrats were eager to blame McCarthy and dysfunction in the House for the looming shutdown. Biden has called on McCarthy to stick to annual spending figures he negotiated to raise the country’s borrowing ceiling.
“He gave the gavel to the extremes in his party,” said Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, a senior Democrat.
With the House at a standstill and lawmakers staying home over the weekend, McCarthy has turned to the plan put forward by Gaetz to begin working on some of the nearly dozen annual spending bills needed to fund the various government departments and the idea of a stopgap approach put on hold for now while work continues.
This is a nearly impossible task because Congress is running out of time to find a short-term spending plan.
“There is no way we can pass 11 bills in eight days,” said Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democratic appropriator, citing the number of bills Congress would have to approve before Sept. 30.
DeLauro, a veteran lawmaker, estimated it would take at least six weeks for the bills to pass in both chambers of Congress and then be negotiated between the House and Senate. She called on Republicans to adopt a continuing resolution allowing government agencies to remain open.
Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, one of McCarthy’s closest allies, has pointed out that the The Senate has progressive legislation to spending levels higher than the agreement reached with Biden. He argues that House Republicans need to pass their own bills in smaller numbers to strengthen their position in the negotiations.
For Congress to resolve the current impasse, many believe it will require a bipartisan coalition that leaves McCarthy’s right flank behind. That would certainly pose a challenge to his leadership.
In the Senate, Democratic and Republican leaders are working on a package that would fund the government in far larger amounts than House Republicans are demanding and would include emergency disaster relief and money for Ukraine, which some Republican House members oppose.
“At some point we’re going to get something back from the U.S. Senate, and we’re not going to like it,” said Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack, a top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. “Then the speaker will have a very difficult decision.”
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.