Speaker Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters as the arrives at the Capitol on Sept. 18, 2023, in Washington. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
After working through the weekend to bridge differences between their centrist and conservative wings, House Republican leaders announced last night that they had a deal that could unite the GOP behind a short-term spending patch and shore up their negotiating position with Democrats ahead of a potential Oct. 1 shutdown.
For a minute, it seemed like a déjà vu moment — another tactical coup for Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who after fits and starts earlier this year got his conference to unite behind a conservative debt-ceiling proposal, paving the way for an unlikely bipartisan deal to avert a federal default.
This time, things aren’t looking so good.
As details of the deal hashed out by leaders of the Main Street Caucus and House Freedom Caucus trickled out, a bevy of conservative hardliners piped up with various versions of “Hell No” — rejecting a measure that would impose an 8% cut to most non-defense programs and implement an array of GOP border policies while extending government funding for a month.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told our colleague Olivia Beavers he “will not support this 167 page surrender to Joe Biden.”
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) called the plan a “continuation of Nancy Pelosi’s budget and Joe Biden’s policies.”
Add to that more objections from Reps. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Cory Mills (R-Fla.), Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fa.), Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), with others certain to follow.
It all adds up to brutal math for McCarthy, who can afford to lose no more than four votes assuming all Democrats vote against it — which is all but certain — and all of his members show up this week — a prospect that seems unlikely, given that at least three members are temporarily sidelined.
It also highlights just how unmanageable the House GOP truly is, with Freedom Caucus leaders — including Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), its chair — endorsing a deal only to see it publicly rejected by a good chunk of its membership within a matter of minutes.
To be sure, with a vote expected no sooner than Thursday, McCarthy and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) have some time to tweak the proposal and win over the holdouts. Perhaps the argument that worked during the debt-limit fight could again change some minds: The point isn’t to get this proposal signed into law, but to give Republicans as strong a negotiating hand as possible.
But, remember: This is a group that felt burned by the deal McCarthy ultimately negotiated to end the default crisis, and they’re not going to be inclined to allow him much room to maneuver again.
Whatever the fate of this CR gambit, neither outcome gets Congress any closer to avoiding a shutdown in 13 days. Biden and the Democratic Senate aren’t going to swallow a top-line spending cut and a bunch of partisan policy riders to keep the lights on.
Like this content? Consider signing up for POLITICO’s Playbook newsletter.