House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) found himself in a tough spot on Friday when a conservative continuing resolution was met with opposition from hard-line conservatives. With limited options on the table, McCarthy presented his conference with four choices: try to pass a Republican continuing resolution, attempt to jam the Senate with a clean continuing resolution, pass whatever resolution the Senate puts forth, or shut down the government. The conference ultimately chose option one but with a shorter duration of 14 days instead of 31. However, even if this conservative resolution were to pass, it would never make it through the Democrat-controlled Senate or be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Recognizing the lack of support for a continuing resolution, McCarthy and a group of members met to discuss alternatives. One option that gained traction was a clean continuing resolution that would keep the government funded. This was seen as a win-win for House Republicans — either it would pass and put pressure on the Senate, or it would fail, allowing them to blame Democrats for voting against government funding.
At a Republican Conference meeting on Saturday, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer revealed that there weren’t enough votes to pass any kind of continuing resolution. As a contingency plan, they proposed passing legislation to ensure military pay during a shutdown and extending the authorization for the National Flood Insurance Program and the Federal Aviation Agency. However, this plan lost favor among members who wanted additional funding for various programs.
Amidst the uncertainty, a group of members led by New York Republicans and the Main Street Caucus voiced their support for a clean continuing resolution. This gained momentum when it became clear that the Senate was unlikely to change its course. McCarthy took the temperature of the room and asked if they wanted to jam the Senate, receiving an enthusiastic yes. He then sprang into action, quickly getting the clean funding stopgap on the floor.
The bill faced some delay tactics from House Democrats, but when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that his members would not vote for cloture on the Senate’s resolution, the House’s bill became the only route to avoid a government shutdown. The bill ultimately passed with strong bipartisan support, funding the government for 45 days, providing $16 billion for disaster relief, and extending FAA authorization.
Despite receiving a majority of his conference’s support and successfully avoiding a shutdown, McCarthy is not out of the woods yet. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has threatened to file a motion to vacate against McCarthy as speaker. However, McCarthy’s allies believe they have enough support to block any such motion. The risk remains, but McCarthy emerges from this episode with a political victory and stronger position.