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Happy Tuesday morning.
In recent days, Kevin McCarthy’s inner circle — a cadre of aides and allies on and off Capitol Hill — has become convinced that conservative House Republicans are looking to provoke a shutdown in order to push him out of the speakership.
Let’s review the evidence.
Conservative hardliners, of course, dragged out McCarthy’s election as speaker for 15 rounds back in January, only relenting after he made a number of serious concessions.
McCarthy then cut a deal on a topline FY2024 spending number with President Joe Biden back in May, which angered his detractors in the Republican Conference.
The speaker later abandoned that agreement in the face of a conservative floor blockade, caving to the right and cutting $100 billion-plus from the annual spending bills as they demanded. Yet House Republican leaders have still been unable to pass next year’s appropriations bills on the floor due to continuing GOP infighting.
Now his Republican critics are hammering McCarthy for not moving those same bills. The hardliners — and there’s a big split among conservatives here — refuse to allow House GOP leaders to pass a stopgap funding package to avoid shutdown. They argue that to do so would continue current Biden administration policy — even if for a month. This includes a continuing resolution negotiated by House Freedom Caucus members.
So it’s a Republican vs. Republican stalemate with McCarthy’s future on the line.
Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) said on local television Sunday that she was on an hour-and-a-half call with the House Freedom Caucus and the group believes Washington was heading for “at least” a “10-day government shutdown.”
McCarthy told reporters on Monday that a shutdown would only benefit Biden. But to some conservatives, trying to force the California Republican out of office is also a viable option — possibly as soon as this week, several sources told us.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has engaged in an extraordinarily public crusade against McCarthy, blaming the speaker for an Ethics Committee probe and threatening to introduce a “motion to vacate” if McCarthy pushed a continuing resolution.
One House Republican said Gaetz was “leaning towards” triggering a motion to vacate push this week.
Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who opposes a CR, issued a statement Monday bashing McCarthy: “It is a shame that our weak Speaker cannot even commit to having a commission to discuss our looming fiscal catastrophe.”
Faced with all this GOP intransigence, if McCarthy turns to Democrats for help passing a CR — as he did on the debt-limit deal — then the speaker’s opponents inside the Republican conference could move against him.
“The thing that would force the motion to vacate is if Kevin has to rely on Democrat votes to pass a CR,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said. “I don’t think it has legs until Kevin relies on Democrats.”
Buck, however, admitted “I don’t see how we can pass the bill [a CR] without Democrat votes.”
McCarthy vows to keep pushing forward. “It took me 15 rounds” to win the speaker vote, McCarthy said Monday. “If you think I’m quitting, it’s never going to happen.”
McCarthy’s allies caution against overreaction at this moment — or they’re angry at the speaker’s GOP critics.
“It was always going to be a huge challenge in a narrowly divided government for us to fund the government and have some compromise. This was always going to be a fight,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.). “So far, the speaker has played every single situation exceedingly well, and the base is exceedingly happy with him.”
Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), the HFC chair and a top member of the group, helped negotiate the proposed CR with the Main Street Caucus. They’ll discuss their plan at the GOP conference meeting today.
Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) is also going to review his proposed FY2024 budget resolution, which is backed by leadership. That measure will be voted on in the Budget Committee on Wednesday.
The Rules Committee passed the rule Monday night for the GOP-drafted CR, which was designed to keep federal agencies open until Nov. 1 while cutting spending and implementing harsh border security measures. The House will vote on this rule today — there is hefty doubt in the leadership that any rule can pass. Failure to pass any CR would be a serious blow to GOP leaders, and McCarthy has vowed to keep his members here until they agree on something.
The House is also scheduled to vote today on a rule for the Defense appropriations bill. That vote was scrubbed last week due to conservative opposition. So leadership will try again, though the outlook is dim minus any deal with right-wing holdouts.
There’s lots of talk, too, about moderate Democrats trying to join forces with Republicans on a compromise continuing resolution via a discharge petition. The only problem is that they have no way to get a bill to the floor before a shutdown. It could be used to end one, however.
Even Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), a frequent McCarthy antagonist, expressed sympathy for the speaker.
“You know, in his defense — and I don’t do that often — but this has been a tough conference for anybody to take the lead,” Crane told us.
— John Bresnahan, Jake Sherman and Mica Soellner
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Tomorrow: Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) joins Punchbowl News founders Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman for an interview on his priorities as chair of the powerful panel. RSVP now to join the conversation at 9 a.m. ET.
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Senate approps process unravels
The Senate’s appropriations process was supposed to be a shining example of how Congress should fund the federal government on time and in a bipartisan manner — a stark contrast to the House’s chaotic and partisan approach.
A conservative revolt in the Senate has left the chamber paralyzed and without a clear path forward on even the most non-controversial of the FY2024 spending bill: Military Construction-VA; Agriculture; and Transportation/HUD.
Last Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) objected to moving forward with amendment votes unless the three funding bills were split up. On Monday evening, Johnson lamented that the Senate was “so dysfunctional” and predicted that the appropriations process would culminate with a massive omnibus funding bill — exactly what conservatives say they detest the most.
“That’s what we’re going to end up with anyway, probably,” Johnson told reporters. “Why not take up [one individual] bill and pass it? What’s wrong with that?”
Senate Democratic leaders’ backup plan requires two-thirds of the Senate to vote to break through Johnson’s blockade and vote on a group of amendments. This would take at least 16 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote with Democrats — and GOP leaders aren’t sure the votes are there.
Republicans are expected to discuss the matter at their lunch later today, Minority Whip John Thune said. Just last week, 91 senators voted to advance the three-bill minibus, and many senators — including hardline conservatives — are eager to secure votes on their amendments. This is what makes the regular-order funding process different from the omnibus process, the latter of which is cobbled together by leadership in secret and voted on without changes.
But if both chambers can’t pass all 12 funding bills or an omnibus by Jan. 1, an across-the-board 1% spending cut can come into play.
Ironically, this would actually increase non-defense discretionary spending, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee aide. That’s because the bipartisan debt-limit agreement — the Fiscal Responsibility Act — mandated an even steeper cut of 5.4%. So the conservatives who are throwing up roadblocks to the Senate’s FY2024 funding efforts are making it more likely that domestic spending will be higher come Jan. 1 than it would otherwise be.
Still, Johnson is undeterred.
“This is not regular order,” he said. “This does nothing to prevent an omnibus. We need the House to start passing appropriations bills one at a time, we need to be bringing them up and passing them up here in the Senate one at a time.”
The stopgap: As House Republicans struggle to come to an agreement on a party-line continuing resolution to prevent a shutdown, senators aren’t jumping in to save the day. Instead, they’re waiting to see what Speaker Kevin McCarthy can pass and send over to the Senate. At the moment, of course, the “what” seems to be nothing.
Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine) criticized the McCarthy-backed CR. Collins said the best outcome would be to extend government funding until early December to give both chambers enough time to pass their full-year appropriations bills.
“I don’t see how that’s workable, just on a practical basis,” Collins said of the House’s CR. “We ought to pass a CR and then pass our bills in both the House and the Senate and go to conference.”
Another issue for senators is the lack of Ukraine funding in the proposed House GOP package. Senators said they hoped that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the Capitol on Thursday would help make the case to the Ukraine-skeptical Republicans.
“We need to continue our aid to Ukraine,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “I think we can make that case very effectively if people are open.”
— Andrew Desiderio
Pocan: Tape shows Van Orden bowing after confronting pages
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said security footage he reviewed shows Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) bowing to his tour group after angrily confronting a group of teenage Senate pages in the Rotunda in July.
Pocan on Monday viewed the tapes of the episode where Van Orden profanely reprimanded a number of Senate pages for lying down on the Capitol floor and taking pictures of the Rotunda ceiling, a favorite tourist move.
Van Orden acknowledged at the time that the interaction took place and didn’t apologize. Instead, the Wisconsin Republican criticized the pages for treating an area where wounded Union soldiers were briefly kept during the Civil War “like a frat house common room.”
Pocan has been calling for the House Administration Committee to release the footage of the late July incident. After a number of the pages’ parents requested that the footage be withheld from the public, Pocan said he settled for viewing the tapes privately.
There was no audio in the tapes, Pocan said, but he added it was clear Van Orden was “belligerent” and “animated” due to the Republican’s hand gestures.
“When he came back and did a bow, clearly there was a douchey level to what he did,” Pocan said ofVan Orden. “So he was proud of what he did, not exactly angry over the righteousness of the space where Civil War soldiers died.”
Van Orden spokesperson Anna Kelly didn’t address Pocan’s claim in a statement.
“Derrick Van Orden came to Congress to work for the people of Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District,” Kelly said. “Right now, he is laser-focused on making sure the government doesn’t shut down.“
On July 26, Van Orden cursed out the pages, who were in their last week of service, calling them “lazy shits” and told them to “get the fuck up” off the floor.
“[Van Orden] should just admit that he had a couple drinks, was giving people a tour, showed off a little and that he should have been more respectful of them,” Pocan said Monday evening.
— Max Cohen
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News: The liberal military group VoteVets is out with a new ad as part of the organization’s latest effort slamming Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) blockade on senior military promotions. The spot is part of an initial $150,000 ad buy that is running on Fox News this week.
In an homage to an old-fashioned newsreel, the ad’s narrator describes Tuberville’s actions as an “un-American assault on our military.”
“Dangerous dictators look on with glee as Tuberville does their work for them,” the narrator says, while calling the Alabama Republican’s colleagues “traitors” for their silence on the issue.
Tuberville, of course, is blocking the promotions as a form of protest against the Pentagon’s policy of compensating service members for abortion-related travel expenses.
— Max Cohen
… AND THERE’S MORE
News: New Democrat Coalition members will hear from Phillip Swagel, director of the Congressional Budget Office, and Ben Harris, director of economic studies at the Brookings Institution, at their weekly lunch today.
— Max Cohen
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8 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
10 a.m.: Biden will speak at the United Nations General Assembly. … House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik will hold a news conference after their closed party meeting.
10:45 a.m.: House Democratic leaders will hold a news conference.
11:10 a.m.: Biden will greet UNGA President Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago.
11:25 a.m.: Biden will sign the UN’s guest book and meet with Secretary General António Guterres.
Noon: House Republicans on the Budget Committee will unveil their budget.
1:45 p.m.: Biden will meet with the Central Asia 5 + 1 at the U.S. mission to the U.N.
2 p.m.: Senate leaders will hold their post-lunch news conferences.
7:15 p.m.: The Bidens will host a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“Biden to Urge Nations to Protect and Nurture Democracy,” by Michael D. Shear in New York and Peter Baker in D.C.
“Trump to Woo Striking Union Members in Detroit, Skipping 2nd G.O.P. Debate,” by Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman
“India, Canada expel diplomats over accusations Delhi killed Sikh activist,” by Gerry Shih and Karishma Mehrotra in New Delhi
“Florida jury pool could give Trump an advantage in classified documents case,” by Eric Tucker and Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami
“Elon Musk Says X May Use Monthly Fees to Fight Bot Problem,” by Isabella Ward and Marissa Newman
“China’s Ex-Foreign Minister Ousted After Alleged Affair, Senior Officials Told,” by Lingling Wei in New York
“Most Americans view Israel as a partner, but fewer see it as sharing US values, AP-NORC poll shows,” by Matthew Lee and Linley Sanders in New York
“Farm bill deadline sparks K Street frenzy,” by Megan R. Wilson
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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