US government shutdown: Kevin McCarthy scrambles for last-minute deal

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Majority members of Kevin McCarthy’s Republican Party refuse to support the short-term funding bill.

As the U.S. government shutdown loomed on Thursday, House Republicans dared to oppose a last-minute proposal in the Senate.

Congress faces a deadline of midnight Saturday to pass a new budget before thousands of federal employees are placed on unpaid leave.

The Senate has floated plans for a temporary funding deal — something House Republicans will oppose.

But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said there is still time for a delayed agreement.

“I wake up every day hopeful,” Mr McCarthy, 58, said when asked about the odds of reaching a deal. “I’d say put your money on me. We’ll get this done.”

However, the possibility of a shutdown increased as the Senate and House continued to push conflicting funding proposals on Thursday.

The Senate will hold a procedural vote on a short-term funding bill that has bipartisan support in the chamber. The bill would avoid a government shutdown until Nov. 17, giving Congress more time to reach an agreement on a long-term budget.

But for the bill to become law, it must pass the House, where at least nine hardline members of Mr McCarthy’s narrow Republican majority refuse to support any stopgap measure.

The group has repeatedly threatened to oust Mr. McCarthy as House speaker if he trusts the Democratic votes to work around their opposition and pass a funding bill without them.

“I think the speaker is making a choice between the speaker and American interests,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday.

“This is not an unsolvable puzzle,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Speaker McCarthy needs to stop letting mega extremists run his decisions.”

Meanwhile, the House is expected to hold its own vote Friday on short-term spending bills that are considered unlikely to ever pass in the Senate.

Mr. McCarthy did not commit to bringing the Senate’s short-term funding bill to the House floor, but said a shutdown could be avoided if Democrats better address the issue of border security in the bill.

“We’re trying to work to see if we can put some border provisions in the current Senate bill that would actually make things better,” he told reporters Thursday.

“I talked to some of the Democratic senators there this morning, and they’re very in tune with what we want to do. They want to do something about the border.”

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Matt Gaetz has vowed to install Mr. McCarthy as speaker if he can count on Democratic votes to pass a spending bill.

In recent months, Mr McCarthy has seen a growing ideological divide between the moderates and right wing of his caucus.

That right-wing faction has only a handful of members, but they wield disproportionate power over proceedings in a chamber that Republicans control by just nine seats.

Fiercely opposed to anything resembling business as usual in Washington, they demand that the party deliver on spending cuts and what they call conservative priorities.

That means Mr McCarthy may need to look to the opposition to bail him out and support a short-term spending bill.

Working with Democrats, the first step toward forcing a vote to oust him as speaker is sure to spark a so-called movement to vacate.

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