House GOP tensions in shutdown drama boil over
Tensions in the House GOP over how to avoid — or not avoid — a potential government shutdown are coming to a boil, with frustrations spilling over into public jabs and airing of grievances without a clear path forward to fund the government past Sept. 30.
“It’s an unmitigated disaster right now on the majority side,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), an appropriator, said Monday on MSNBC. “I’m fearful of what this leads to.”
Republicans are bitterly divided on a short-term stopgap bill that would fund the government through Oct. 31. The measure includes an 8 percent cut to everything but Defense and Veterans Affairs, along with the bulk of the House GOP’s border crackdown bill.
The plan, crafted by leaders in the Main Street Caucus and House Freedom Caucus, is intended to show House GOP unity and place pressure on the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House in negotiations for a package that could become law.
But more than a dozen hard-line conservative Republicans swiftly announced they opposed the bill for not going far enough or not addressing other appropriations — including many in the House Freedom Caucus.
By the end of the day Monday, about 24 hours after the bill was unveiled, the list of Republicans saying they are definite or probable “no” votes had grown to at least 16. In the narrow GOP majority, that opposition would be more than enough to sink the legislation.
“They weren’t speaking for anyone beyond the six of them,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a Freedom Caucus member, said of the members who wrote the bill.
Clashes between conservatives spilled onto social media Monday, with GOP lawmakers going after one another in the public eye.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) knocked the stopgap measure — which he dubbed “the Donalds CR” after Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), one of the bill sponsors — in a tweet, arguing that it will continue to fund the office of Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing investigations into former President Trump.
Donalds shot back, telling his Florida colleague, “You’ll need more than tweets and hot takes!!”
In a separate post responding to Donalds, Gaetz said “It is so painful watching someone I admire so much author a continuing resolution to fund the government agencies I loathe.”
Donalds chalked up the back-and-forth as “par for the course” in politics.
“Politics, it’s, you know, you get brutal sometimes, this is part of it,” he told reporters later in the day. “But you know, that’s why I have Kevlar skin; I don’t have thick skin, it’s Kevlar. So if you want to bring the attacks bring it on, I’m ready.”
The social media sparring did not stop at the pair of Florida Republicans.
Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) kicked off the day with a fiery statement going after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — whom she dubbed a “weak Speaker” — and staking her opposition to the GOP continuing resolution.
Asked for his reaction to Spartz, McCarthy took a shot at her for retiring at the end of this term.
“Anybody who criticize you has never worked harder than you. And I mean, if Victoria is concerned about fighting stronger, I wish she would’ve run again and not quit,” he told reporters. “I mean, I’m not quitting, I’m gonna continue to work for the American public.”
Gaetz then jumped in to defend his GOP colleague from McCarthy, whom the Florida Republican has sharply criticized in recent days. Last week, Gaetz heightened his threat to oust McCarthy from his post.
“This quote from @SpeakerMcCarthy is disgraceful. Rep. Spartz is retiring after honorable service because her family needs her and she values the most important institution in American life. Kevin attacking a woman for putting her family above ambition & power is truly a new low. Kevin would never understand subjugating ambition for anything, or anyone,” Gaetz wrote in a tweet.
When she announced her retirement in February, Spartz said, “I need to spend more time with my two high school girls back home.”
The intraparty frustrations have resulted in increased threats to McCarthy’s leadership — already tenuous given the drawn-out, 15-ballot election that finally resulted in his victory in January.
“When you have somebody of importance in the conference saying, ‘If you want to do a motion to vacate, go f‑‑‑ing try,’ that sort of tells you what you need to know,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said last week when asked about the environment in his conference.
He was referring to McCarthy, who last week dropped an f-bomb as he dared his critics — namely Gaetz — in a closed-door conference meeting to make a move that forces a vote on whether to oust him from the position.
McCarthy for months has poked the press for doubting Republicans’ ability to pass party-line measures amid internal divisions in the slim majority, continually projecting confidence and taking I-told-you-so victory laps at the end of each week.
But the Speaker is striking a different tone now, particularly after conservative opposition forced leaders to punt plans to bring a Department of Defense funding bill to the floor last week. McCarthy told reporters Monday that he did not know whether the continuing resolution would pass as expected Thursday.
“I’m trying to convey to my members, if we want to be able to win these objectives, we should show the American public our ideas and be able to pass them,” McCarthy said. “Is it a struggle? Yes. But you know what, sometimes struggles are worth it.”
But privately, Republicans acknowledge that the path forward looks bleak, and Republicans are losing leverage.
“Nobody has a path forward now,” said one GOP member. “So what does that really mean? Is somebody else going to come in and try to save the day? Or what does the Speaker have?”
“If this goes down this week, you can bet McCarthy is going to be talking to you all immediately after saying, ‘I told them it wouldn’t work,’” the member said of the continuing resolution plan.
The hard-line conservatives who crafted the bill, for their part, are arguing that their colleagues have misunderstood some of the legislation and are poking back at them as they urge their conservative colleagues to join in support.
“I’ve got a lot of conservative friends who like to beat their chests and thump around going, ‘oh, this isn’t pure enough,'” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), one of the members who helped craft the continuing resolution, said on the Guy Benson Show on Monday.
The bill would “ratchet back the federal bureaucracy that’s been at odds with the American people and force their hand on the border, which is a strong national message,” Roy added. “I think that’s a win.”
Asked about the Freedom Caucus opposition, McCarthy said members need more time to review the bill and understand what is in it. But he added that he is “never” surprised by the group of hard-line conservatives, recognizing that the coalition of rabble-rousers has mucked up the legislative process “every week.”
“So let’s just work through it, let’s not get overexcited about it,” McCarthy told reporters. “Let’s just solve the problem.”