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Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks in Capitol

Barreling toward a shutdown

Based on what we know right now, it seems exceedingly likely that the federal government is going to shut down this weekend. Full stop.

This could change. It’s a fast-moving situation with a lot of different pieces. But as of this morning, the U.S. government is nearly certain to run out of money when the clock strikes 12:01 on Sunday morning. We’ll explain why in a moment.

Weekend shutdowns aren’t really all too impactful. The full scale of the shutdown won’t be felt until Monday morning when the vast majority of federal employees begin their work week.

It’s also important to note that a government shutdown is a slow-moving crisis. The situation gets more serious each day that agencies can’t fully function and hundreds of thousands of federal employees — including the military — don’t get paid.

Yet our reporting suggests that this shutdown probably won’t be limited to this weekend.

The Senate. On Tuesday evening, we scooped the details of the Senate’s bipartisan stopgap funding bill, which would keep federal agencies open until Nov. 17. The White House-endorsed bill includes roughly $6 billion in new economic and military aid for Ukraine, plus another $6 billion for disaster relief. There is no border security money nor spending cuts that House conservatives have been incessantly demanding.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to advance the temporary funding measure Tuesday night, 77-19. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reiterated to us that he won’t give consent for speedy passage of the continuing resolution. Other conservative GOP senators may lock arms with Paul, but it only takes one to bog down this process.

That means the Senate could potentially vote on final passage of the CR as late as Sunday, which is after government funding expires. There could be a decent-sized number of “no” votes, too, with some GOP senators incensed at the inclusion of Ukraine aid in the package.

“I really can’t believe that we’re about to shut down the United States government because Senate Democrats want to spend another $6 billion on Ukraine,” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) told us Tuesday evening. (Of course, many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, want to aid Ukraine, as well.)

But other senators said it was important for the chamber to show it can pass a CR due to the chaos on the House floor last week.

“It seems to change every hour if not by the minute in the House. I don’t think they know what they can do at this point,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “But we know what we can do, I think, and that is send over a CR and see what the speaker can do with it.”

The House. Let’s just assume for a moment that the Senate can pass its version of a CR. There’s no chance — and we mean zero — that Speaker Kevin McCarthy will bring that bill to the floor in its current form. Maybe he’ll take up a clean CR a week or so into a government shutdown. McCarthy may have the leeway to consider a clean CR after he’s tried to isolate some of the conservative hardliners and it’s clear he has no option in order to get federal employees back at work.

But there’s no way he can do so now. McCarthy has to show some fight. It’s what a chunk of the House Republican Conference wants. It’s his personal inclination as well.

How will he fight? We scooped in the Midday edition that McCarthy wanted to amend the Senate’s CR with H.R. 2, the House’s border security bill. McCarthy and House GOP leaders want to portray this as a fight over border security and the deteriorating situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, not the deep spending cuts that House Republicans are pushing to social programs. We assume they can get enough Republican votes for that.

McCarthy may also call for the creation of a debt and deficit commission.

“If they want to focus on Ukraine and not focus on the southern border, I think their priorities are bad,” McCarthy said when asked about the support by McConnell and Senate Republicans for new Ukraine aid. McCarthy said he spoke with McConnell on Tuesday.

Yet if there’s a movement in the House GOP to amend the Senate CR with spending cuts or remove the Ukraine money, McCarthy will have trouble getting enough votes for passage.

McCarthy’s plan is to bring up his own stopgap funding bill later this week after voting on four other appropriations measures — Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture and State-Foreign Operations. Whether House Republicans can pass any of them is questionable, although the Defense bill likely has the best chance.

The GOP leadership also is skeptical that the House will be able to pass the McCarthy-endorsed stopgap funding bill.

Remember: Multiple House conservatives are opposed to any kind of CR — even if it is jam-packed with provisions they support.

“I will not vote for a CR. It doesn’t matter what you attach to it,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) told us.

Assuming there is a shutdown, McCarthy’s best-case scenario is convincing the Senate to negotiate with him on a CR to reopen the government while extracting some wins on the border. This will be a tall task. House Republicans will be seen as having shut down the government. Why would the Senate throw him a lifeline?

— Jake Sherman, Andrew Desiderio, John Bresnahan, Mica Soellner and Heather Caygle

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