Updated Sep 14, 2023, 1:36pm EDT

McCarthy returns to business under siege from conservatives

REUTERS/Leah Millis

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The News

Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s effort to avoid a government shutdown got off to a brutally painful start during the House’s first full day back in session.

On Wednesday, GOP leaders bailed on the lower chamber’s annual Pentagon funding bill, due to a lack of support to get the legislation past the first procedural vote to start debate on the floor. Conservatives are demanding scores of amendments related to barring funding for diversity programs, gender-affirming medical care, and changes to the military’s abortion travel policy.

“This is football season. We need a first down,” Rep. Steve Womack, an Arkansas Republican on the House Appropriations panel, told reporters. “We’re in a bad spot. We’re in a difficult spot.”

To some, the surprise defense debacle appeared to be the latest sign that McCarthy had effectively lost control of his conference. “Other speakers struggled to pass ambitious bills and party priorities,” Josh Huder, a senior fellow at the Georgetown Government Affairs Institute, tweeted. “But this leadership’s inability to bring popular bills to the floor demonstrates profound weakness.”

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Joseph’s view

McCarthy’s move to kick off an impeachment inquiry into President Biden on Monday was widely viewed as a bid to buy goodwill from conservatives in order to smooth the path for budget talks. So far, the gambit doesn’t appear to be paying off.


Republicans are currently eyeing a stopgap funding measure that keeps the government for another three to four weeks through October while spending negotiations move forward, according to Rep. Kevin Hern, R.-Okla. But such a continuing resolution still faces stiff opposition from the right: Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, McCarthy’s most vocal antagonist, has said he would call a vote to strip McCarthy of his gavel in response.

On Wednesday, McCarthy dismissed Gaetz’s threats as the product of a petty grudge. “Matt is upset about an ethics complaint,” McCarthy told reporters. “I don’t care what they threaten against me. I am not going to interject into an independent committee like Ethics.”

But McCarthy faces resistance from other hardliners, too. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a prominent member of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters that he wanted to see all 11 remaining appropriations bills at once, rather than voting on them individually, and voiced his opposition to a stopgap funding measure.

“I don’t want to see a CR unless that CR had just overwhelmingly significant wins for the American people that did not reflect just a delay or kick the can down the road,” Good told Semafor.

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The View From Wall Street

Both inside and outside Washington, the conventional wisdom is now that the government appears to be headed for a shutdown. Goldman Sachs analysts are forecasting the government will close its doors for two to three weeks.

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Room for Disagreement

Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., told Semafor that, despite the spat with Gaetz, he didn’t think there would be a serious effort to oust McCarthy. “I just don’t think it’s imminent,” he said.