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McCarthy Back to Square One on Budget  09/28 06:21

   As the Senate marches ahead with a bipartisan approach to prevent a 
government shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is back to square one -- 
asking his hard-right Republicans to do what they have said they would never 
do: approve their own temporary House measure to keep the government open.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- As the Senate marches ahead with a bipartisan approach to 
prevent a government shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is back to square 
one -- asking his hard-right Republicans to do what they have said they would 
never do: approve their own temporary House measure to keep the government open.

   The Republican speaker laid out his strategy Wednesday behind closed doors, 
urging his unruly Republican majority to work together. He set up a test vote 
for Friday, one day before Saturday's shutdown deadline, on a far-right bill. 
It would slash federal spending by 8% from many agencies and toughen border 
security but has been rejected by Democrats and his own right-flank Republicans.

   "I want to solve the problem," McCarthy told reporters afterward at the 

   But pressed on how he would pass a partisan Republican spending plan that 
even his own right flank doesn't want, McCarthy had few answers. He rejected 
outright the Senate's bipartisan bill, which would fund the government to Nov. 
17, adding $6 billion for Ukraine and $6 billion for U.S. disaster relief while 
talks continue. Instead, he insisted, as he often does, that he would never 
quit trying.

   Congress is at a crossroads days before a disruptive federal shutdown that 
would halt paychecks for millions of federal workers, leave 2 million active 
duty military troops and reservists to work without pay, close down many 
federal offices, and leave Americans who rely on the government in ways large 
and small in the lurch.

   President Joe Biden in California at a meeting of the President's Council of 
Advisors on Science and Technology said Wednesday he didn't think a federal 
shutdown was inevitable.

   "I don't think anything is inevitable when it comes to politics," he said.

   But later at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Biden said of McCarthy: "I think 
that the speaker is making a choice between his speakership and American 

   As the Senate pushes ahead in bipartisan fashion, McCarthy is demanding that 
Biden meet to discuss border security measures. But the speaker has little 
leverage left with the White House without the power of his House majority 
behind him. The White House has panned his overtures for talks after McCarthy 
walked away from the debt deal he and Biden reached earlier this year that is 
now law.

   On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer 
warned of the right-wing extremes that "seem to exult in shutting down 

   The Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was in rare agreement with the 
Democratic leader, urging his House colleagues to consider the Senate's stopgap 
approach, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, and move off the shutdown 

   McConnell said that he, too, would like to do something about the 
"Democrats' reckless spending" and boost border security. But he said, "these 
important discussions cannot progress" if the functions of government "end up 
being taken hostage."

   When McConnell mentioned a vote against the bill would mean voting against 
pay for border patrol agents and others, it sparked a response from Biden on 
social media.

   "You know, I agree with Mitch here. Why the House Republicans would want to 
defund Border Patrol is beyond me," Biden wrote.

   With the Senate expected to spend the rest of this week working to pass its 
bill over the objections of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and others on the right 
flank. Like their House colleagues, the conservative senators want to halt aid 
to Ukraine and push for steeper spending cuts, all action in Congress is 
crushing toward a last minute deadline.

   The federal government would begin to shut down if funding is not secured by 
Sunday, Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

   A new economic assessment from Goldman Sachs estimated a federal shutdown 
would subtract 0.2 percent points from fourth-quarter GDP growth each week it 
continues, according to a report issued Wednesday.

   Running out of options, McCarthy revived the border security package he 
first tried to attach to a temporary government funding bill earlier this 
month. But he still faces a handful of hard-right holdouts led by Rep. Matt 
Gaetz, R-Fla., who say they won't vote for any CR, denying a majority for 

   It's late in the process to be pushing the border security provisions now, 
as McCarthy tries to salvage the strategy. He is seeking to shift blame to 
Biden and Democrats for not engaging in an immigration debate about the record 
flow of migrants at the Southern border with Mexico.

   Facing holdouts in his own ranks, McCarthy is trying to cajole his 
hard-right members who have refused to vote for any temporary spending bill -- 
even with the border provisions. He told reporters, "I don't understand where 
somebody would want to stand with President Biden on keeping an open border and 
not keep government open."

   The holdouts are determined to force the House to debate and pass all 12 
individual funding bills for all the various government agencies. It's a 
grinding weeks-long process with no guarantee the bills will even pass with 
days to go before a shutdown.

   "If that means we close and we shut down, that's what we're going do," said 
Rep. Andy Ogles, a Tennessee Republican who wants the House to vote on all 12 
bills, as he exited the morning Republican meeting.

   On Wednesday the House slogged through debate over four of those bills -- to 
fund Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture and State and Foreign Operations.

   One amendment to gut $300 million for Ukraine was backed by 104 Republicans, 
more than ever as resistance to war funding grows, but it -- and another like 
it -- overwhelmingly failed. One from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to cut the 
Defense Secretary's salary to $1 was approved without dissent.

   But late at night, facing the prospect that the Defense bill would fail with 
any Ukraine aid intact, the Republicans held an emergency Rules meeting to 
strip the $300 million -- a stunning maneuver that the committee's top Democrat 
called "pathetic," since the House had already decided the issue.

   Republicans defended the action, saying the Ukraine money, which is routine 
and separate from Biden's larger request for funds, now will be voted on 
separately -- and will likely pass with overwhelming support.

   Lawmakers are prepared to work into the weekend, but one leading Republican, 
Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, said he believed Congress was headed towards a 
government shutdown.

   "Somebody is going to have to flinch or break, or there will have to be 
something negotiated," he said.

   But the hard-right is threatening to oust McCarthy if he joins with 
Democrats and Womack, who is not among the holdouts, explained such a move 
could be "problematic for the speaker."

   While the White House has said it's up to McCarthy and the House Republicans 
to "fix" the problem they have created, Biden's chief rival in the 2024 
election, Donald Trump, is urging the right flank to fight for steep spending 
cuts. If Republicans don't get what they want, Trump the former president says, 
they should "shut it down."

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