Republicans scramble to avert shutdown

The News

The chaos in Congress has spawned strange bedfellows.

The latest collaboration appears to be between some members of the Republican Main Street Caucus and the House Freedom Caucus who are working together to stave off a government shutdown.

Republican Reps. Kelly Armstrong, Stephanie Bice, Byron Donalds, Chip Roy, Scott Perry, and Dusty Johnson met Wednesday night to discuss the contours of a stopgap funding measure with the expectation that the House will continue to negotiate additional appropriation bills, per a Republican lawmaker and a House GOP aide. The group reconvened Thursday after each caucus met individually. The unifying issue is border spending.

“The Republican Main Street Caucus and the House Freedom Caucus are working together in good faith to establish a plan to lower spending, secure the border, and avoid a government shutdown. The talks have been productive and we’ll continue to work toward a deal,” Main Street Chair Dusty Johnson and Vice Chair Stephanie Bice said in a statement.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy told Republicans that they’ll remain in session until they approve a stopgap funding measure that averts a shutdown. Behind the scenes, Republicans were growing increasingly exasperated at the lack of progress on approving spending bills. They pulled the plug on passing Pentagon funding legislation this week, and McCarthy faced another threat of a right-wing revolt that could cost him the gavel.

One senior Republican said the House GOP conference may be edging closer to tearing itself apart, drawing a comparison to what ultimately happened with the so-called “Five Families” in the Godfather movies.

“The whole family kills each other,” the senior GOP lawmaker said. “ I think we’re close to that right now. We are in maybe the Godfather II stage.”

A GOP aide lambasted hardliners from the Freedom Caucus, saying “they are hellbent on losing the majority” for Republicans.

“Ag and Defense are supposed to be easy,” the aide said, referring to the Agriculture-FDA spending bill that House Republicans also bailed on. “But the demands of a few are upending the desires of many.”

Joseph’s view

Republicans seem to be leaving this week in worse shape than they started. There’s little to no discernible progress yet on must-pass spending bills, and the threat of a shutdown is greater than it’s ever been.

It was notable that McCarthy flashed frustration through the day, despite his usual attempts to keep cool. “I got a small group of members who don’t want to vote for CR, don’t want to vote for individual bills and don’t want to vote for an Omni,” he told Punchbowl News. “I’m not quite sure what they want.”

McCarthy also had a blunt message for his conservative antagonists on Thursday: Bring it on.

“If you want to file a motion to vacate, then file a fucking motion,” McCarthy said in a morning conference meeting, per one attendee. He later conceded to reporters: “I had a plan for this week. It didn’t turn out exactly as I planned.”

Still, the fact that Republicans from disparate factions are attempting to negotiate a spending patch offers McCarthy a ray of hope. After the Mainstreet and Freedom Caucus members met, the Republican Study Committee, the largest bloc within the House GOP conference, released a statement saying they favor “a short-term, conservative continuing resolution.”

Room for Disagreement

One rank-and-file Republican argued that the infighting will die down within their conference and ultimately coalesce around a stopgap funding bill that averts a shutdown on October 1.

“At the end of the day, we’ll come together and we’ll get it done. We always do,” Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., told Semafor. “None of us want to see a shutdown.”

The View From the Senate

The Senate hit a snag on their bipartisan spending bills on Thursday when Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., blocked an attempt by Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., to bring amendments to the floor. The sudden blockade meant the upper chamber adjourned for the week without a deal on amendment votes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer lambasted “a small group of conservatives” who are “trying to mimic the Freedom Caucus.”

“Our Republican leaders have to reject this MAGA-Republicanism for the good of the country, and for the good of their party,” Schumer said in a Thursday floor speech.