U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks with reporters as he arrives for the day at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. September 18, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Lawmakers over the weekend expressed few signs of movement on a budget resolution that would keep the U.S. government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year, and the clock is ticking.
Current spending laws are due to expire on Sept. 30. That means if Congress does not reach an agreement before 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 1, the government will shut down. House Republicans on Thursday sent the chamber into recess, delaying further developments in the negotiations.
“I don’t know what to think,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican representative from California, is responsible for piecing together the splintered GOP caucus that is struggling to come to an agreement.
Durbin, D-IL, noted that the Senate had been “moving forward” in negotiating a deal before it was interrupted by disagreement from Republican Congress members and the “inability of the Speaker to get a majority for anything.”
A primary obstacle ahead of McCarthy is a group of Republican hard-liners in the House who refuse to budge on further spending cuts.
“All of a sudden we’re the bad guys because we want to balance our budget,” Tennessee GOP Rep. Tim Burchett said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Burchett is among the House Republicans who are, as he puts it, “sticking to our guns” and will not endorse a short-term bill called a continuing resolution, or CR, which would provide a temporary budget until September 2024.
“I’ve not voted for a CR, a continuing resolution. I didn’t vote for one under President Trump, and I haven’t voted for any in the past,” said Burchett. “You have folks that come to Washington and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a fiscal conservative, I’m going to be this,’ and then they’re not.”
Some House representatives have come together in a bipartisan effort to avert a shutdown. Late Wednesday night, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 64 House representatives, equally split between Democrats and Republicans, proposed a budgetary framework endorsed by its members.
“All we’re focused on is keeping the lights on,” New Jersey Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Gottheimer co-chairs the caucus alongside Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.
But that symbol of bipartisan cooperation has not been enough to rally all 435 members of the House into an agreement.
If Speaker McCarthy is unable to unite his fellow Republicans, he could look across the aisle to secure the votes he needs to pass the budget. But turning to Democratic votes would come with its own wave of political backlash.
Tennessee’s Burchett said that were McCarthy to allow a deal to pass via Democrats’ votes, he would “strongly look at” giving his support to oust the speaker.
“Our financial ship is sinking,” Burchett said.
A government shutdown would mean paused paychecks for millions of U.S. federal employees and a hiatus of many government services. Investors have also expressed worry about what a shutdown would mean for the fourth fiscal quarter in an already fragile stock market.
“Across the country, so many impacts would be felt. This has to be avoided,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”