As the deadline for a government shutdown looms, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his allies are scrambling to gain control of a fractured House and convince their Republican colleagues to drop their hardline tactics and work together to approve a conservative spending plan.
In a series of public and private appeals on Saturday, Republican leaders implored a handful of right-wing holdouts to abandon their disruptive tactics and back McCarthy's plan to keep the government open before the September 30 deadline.
Representative Garrett Graves of Louisiana called on his colleagues to "avoid a government shutdown" and warned them that their strategies were "absolutely hallucinating." He stressed the importance of passing a temporary measure, as time is running out and it is unlikely that all 12 necessary appropriations bills will be passed before the deadline.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden criticized the "small group of extreme Republicans" who were threatening a shutdown, stating that it could have dire consequences for essential services such as the military, food safety, and cancer research. He urged Republicans to fulfill their responsibility to fund the government and criticized their failure to do so.
Congress has largely emptied out for the weekend, with the House at a standstill and the White House instructing federal agencies to begin preparing for a potential shutdown. The House Rules Committee held a rare Saturday session to begin the process of setting up votes for next week.
Under McCarthy's plan, the House would start voting as soon as Tuesday on some of the necessary funding bills, including for the Defense Department, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and State and Foreign Operations. However, it is uncertain if McCarthy has the necessary votes to pass these bills, let alone the dozens of amendments that would likely be proposed.
Furthermore, passing these bills and sending them to the Senate would still require negotiations on their differences, extending the process even more.
One critical issue that will be debated is amendments that would strip funding for the war in Ukraine, advocated by supporters of former President Donald Trump, a leading candidate for the 2024 presidential race.
While McCarthy's plan also includes a continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government funded while discussions continue, many of the conservative holdouts, including Representative Matt Gaetz, have vowed never to vote for any CR – a stance that almost guarantees a government shutdown.
In response, McCarthy's allies are using any platform they can to urge their colleagues to work together and avoid a shutdown. Representative Graves stated plainly that "Anyone who says that we're going to finish all 12 appropriations bills between now and Saturday is absolutely hallucinating."
Alternatively, McCarthy could work with Democrats to pass a CR with their votes, but that would almost certainly result in a vote to oust him from his position as Speaker, as Gaetz and others have threatened.
As the House remains deadlocked, the pressure is on McCarthy and his allies to convince their colleagues to put aside their differences and work together in the best interest of the country. The clock is ticking, and the fate of the government hangs in the balance.