Congress might be moving an inch closer to funding the government after another round of negotiations between the House GOP’s warring factions.
Emphasis on might.
“I think we made tremendous progress,” McCarthy told reporters following a conference-wide meeting Wednesday afternoon, sounding noticeably more optimistic in recent days. “We had a great discussion.”
Republicans outlined a new plan to keep the government open for a month at the spending levels outlined in their party-line debt ceiling bill from earlier this year that was ignored by the Senate.
The package, which includes a border security proposal and a fiscal commission to address spending, would be enough to win over at least some members in the far right of the party who’ve consistently demanded spending be capped at fiscal year 2022 levels.
Separately, members agreed to limit full-year appropriations to $1.52 trillion, lower than the figure outlined in the final debt ceiling deal between President Biden and McCarthy, which Senate appropriators have stuck to.
“There’s nothing more flexible in Washington than a red line,” Rep. Dusty Johnson told reporters. “There’s real movement happening in that room.”
The agreement also ensures that the defense appropriations bill that failed earlier this week will get another floor vote, after 5 members tanked it on Tuesday, sparking a furious outcry among much of the party.
”We’ve got a plan to move forward, going to DOD and then going to a number of other appropriation bills,” McCarthy said. He added that Republicans were “very close” on a temporary spending bill to keep the government open as budget negotiations continue. “I feel like we’ve got just a little more to go there,” he said.
We’ve seen this maneuver before. Much as he did during the debt ceiling saga, McCarthy appears to be letting conservatives pack their policy wish list into a bill destined to be rejected in the Senate, simply in order to move the budget process along, and give himself some sort of starting point for negotiations with Democrats.
Moderate Republicans may be willing to swallow the vote, much as they did during the debt ceiling showdown, purely for the sake of forward progress. But the low spending numbers are already triggering some complaints from members representing Biden-won districts, such as Rep. George Santos.
“You can’t force me to vote for $1.471 trillion when it’s a rounding error to $1.526 trillion, and you give me and all 11 New Yorkers double the work to have to go defend and spin,“ Santos told Semafor.
Room for Disagreement
McCarthy may be further from a GOP-only deal than he’s letting on: Rep. Matt Gaetz, the speaker’s personal bete noir, reportedly stood up during Wednesday’s meeting and claimed that at least seven members won’t vote for any continuing resolution, more than enough to tank a party-line bill. (Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn. backed his claim later in the evening.)
It may not help matters that Donald Trump is now demanding that Republicans use the Sept. 30 budget deadline to “defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., one of Trump’s most ardent allies in Congress, plans to introduce an amendment that would repeal the Justice’s Department ability to fund special counsels and instead give the authority to Congress.
“They failed on the debt limit, but they must not fail now. Use the power of the purse and defend the Country!” the former president and GOP presidential frontrunner posted on Truth Social Wednesday.