House Speaker Kevin McCarthy needs the House to move on a spending bill in order to avert a shutdown and give Republicans any hope of exerting leverage in negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate. | Francis Chung/POLITICO
Speaker Kevin McCarthy is trapped in a vicious cycle.
Every day this week, he has unveiled a new strategy to move forward on funding the government. And every day, he has been thwarted by a small but powerful group of opponents in his own party.
In a slim majority where a handful of House Republicans has the power to kill any single proposal, that is exactly what a handful of ultraconservatives have done this week — again and again.
McCarthy needs the House to move on a spending bill in order to avert a shutdown and give Republicans any hope of exerting leverage in negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate.
That potential leverage is probably diminishing every time McCarthy throws out new ideas and tactics, only to get shot down by his own members.
So for those trying to keep track, here’s a look back at all the short-lived strategies this week.
Sunday night: McCarthy convened a conference call to pitch and promote a deal within the fractured party to temporarily fund the government, plus revive some conservative border initiatives. But opposition quickly mounted, to the point that the speaker clearly lacked the votes for a deal that would slash spending for most federal agencies and keep the government running for a month.
Monday: McCarthy’s ill-fated pitch emerged in full, including sweeping 8 percent cuts across domestic spending, but exemptions for veterans and defense. It included disaster aid for states rocked by flooding, storms and wildfires. A key provision that negotiators hoped would bring conservatives on board would beef up border enforcement and change asylum and immigration laws.
McCarthy even flirted with forcing his holdout members to take a vote on the emerging deal, daring them to oppose it. But that never happened — the careful constellation of priorities aimed at pleasing different corners of the House GOP still wasn’t enough to get the support he needed to take action on the proposal.
Tuesday: For the second time under McCarthy’s leadership, a procedural vote was tanked by Republican discord.
McCarthy wanted to get one Republican-led spending bill across the finish line, a first step toward keeping his promise to pass all 12 standalone bills. But hardliners blocked debate, making Pentagon funding — usually an easy sell to conservatives — a casualty of the roiling battle between McCarthy and his conservative critics.
Wednesday: The sense that McCarthy is throwing legislative linguini (or Jell-O) at the wall and seeing what sticks became literal. As Olivia Beavers reported, McCarthy began throwing ideas up on a white board during an evening conference meeting and queried his members in real time if they’d back this idea or that.
GOP members exited the meeting with buoyed spirits and a plan to move forward on one single spending bill.
McCarthy’s new plan — a stopgap funding bill at the $1.47 trillion spending level with conservative immigration policies attached — also raised spirits that a GOP-led proposal to avert a government shutdown could be nigh.
Thursday: Already McCarthy’s new plan is in trouble. More than a half dozen Republicans have come out against it.