With 10 days to go until the government will shut down without a new funding agreement, House Republicans headed into Thursday expressing significantly more optimism about their chances of coalescing around a short-term spending plan – but quickly suffered a setback on longer-term progress when GOP hardliners sank a Pentagon funding bill for the second time in a week.
“We had a very productive meeting today, lasted two and a half hours. It was an intense family discussion, but it was productive and we walked out of the room, I think, with an agreement, at least the framework for an agreement, amongst ourselves on how to proceed,” Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., said in an interview with CNN Wednesday night, adding that he does not believe there will be a government shutdown.
The rosier outlook was the result of a party meeting late Wednesday afternoon in which Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., presented House GOP members with a new stopgap funding proposal, known as a continuing resolution or CR, to temporarily keep the government funded.
“We made tremendous progress as an entire conference,” McCarthy said following Wednesday’s meeting. “We’re very close there.”
Multiple outlets reported the CR floated would extend funding until the end of October AT a spending level of $1.471 trillion a year. It would also include much of House Republicans’ border security bill and create a commission to look into the national debt.
As part of the proposal, members also reportedly received a commitment from McCarthy for a $1.526 trillion topline spending number for the full fiscal year budget, which includes 12 appropriations bills.
“I think there's an agreement on the topline spending number, which has been part of the controversy that we couldn’t decide upon. We've got that now,” Johnson said.
A continuing resolution allows lawmakers to temporarily avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1 and buys them time to work out appropriations bills to fund the government for the next fiscal year.
The developments came after a group of conservative House Republicans this week immediately rejected a CR worked out by leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and pragmatic Main Street Caucus, leading the House to punt a vote on it scheduled for Tuesday.
Several House Republicans, according to reports from multiple outlets, who were opposed to the plan worked out by these two groups expressed optimism about supporting the new proposal offered on Wednesday.
But it is still far from clear whether the House GOP has enough votes to pass it. Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., both said at least seven members are against the proposal.
Gaetz on Wednesday posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, a statement from Donald Trump in which the former president urged Republicans to "defund all aspects" of what he called "Crooked Joe Biden's weaponized Government."
“This is also the last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots," Trump wrote. “They failed on the debt limit, but they must not fail now."
"Trump Opposes the Continuing Resolution," Gaetz wrote alongside Trump's message. "Hold the line."
Even if the House GOP was able to get the new CR through the lower chamber, it faces little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate or getting the green light from President Joe Biden. But coming together on a bill could give them a stronger foothold when negotiating with the Senate and White House.
But it doesn't look like consensus will be easy to reach for House Republicans: the conference suffered another blow on Thursday when their Department of Defense spending bill failed again. House GOP also emerged from Wednesday’s meeting touting major progress on that bill after it failed to move forward on Tuesday, but those hopes appeared to be dashed when five far-right Republicans voted against the measure.
The five Republicans who joined Democrats to sink the measure in a 216-212 vote were Reps. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Eli Crane, R-Ariz., Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
"I just voted NO to the rule for the Defense bill because they refused to take the war money for Ukraine out and put it in a separate bill," Greene wrote on Twitter.
McCarthy called Thursday’s failed vote “frustrating” but added he is “going to solve” the challenge.
“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down, that doesn’t work,” McCarthy told reporters, adding: "It’s frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate."
After the sunk vote, Congress headed home for the weekend, with government funding just days away from running out and no clear resolution in sight.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said that Republicans are "in the midst of a civil war" that is "hurting the ability of the Congress to do the business of the American people and to solve problems on behalf of everyday Americans."
"What’s happening is that House Republicans continue to be held captive by the most extreme elements of their conference, and it’s hurting the American people," Jeffries said at a press conference on Thursday, citing the short time left to avert a government shutdown.
"Why are the American people facing down another manufactured GOP crisis?" he asked. "They need to end their civil war because it's hurting the American people."
Earlier this year, the deal McCarthy and Biden cut to suspend the nation’s debt limit and keep the U.S. from defaulting included agreements for the next fiscal year aimed at reining in spending to get GOP support.
But it was not enough for some in the GOP’s right flank, who subsequently held up the House floor for days in protest. And since then, the House has moved forward with spending bills below the levels the debt deal laid out.
The White House has sought to highlight how House Republicans are reneging on the plan and has stressed their spending proposals would lead to budget cuts for schools with low-income students, budget and personnel cuts to federal law enforcement agencies and the IRS, and cut clean technology and pollution reduction programs.