House Speaker Kevin McCarthy privately outlined to members a new GOP plan to keep the government open on Wednesday after a marathon two-and-a-half-hour GOP conference meeting.
The California Republican later told reporters that Republican negotiators made “tremendous progress as an entire conference,” following days of GOP infighting and less than two weeks before a government funding deadline.
“We are very close,” McCarthy said Wednesday evening when asked specifically what progress had been made on the GOP short-term bill. “I feel like just got a little more movement to go there,” he added of the new GOP plan. When asked specifically about the topline numbers, he wouldn’t get into details but said: “We’re in a good place.”
The plan, as outlined by the speaker, would keep the government open for 30 days at $1.471 trillion spending levels, a commission to address the debt and a border security package. Separately, they also agreed to move year-long funding bills at a $1.526 trillion level. That level is below the bipartisan agreement that the speaker reached with the White House to raise the national debt limit.
The levels are also far lower than what senators from both parties and the White House are willing to accept, meaning it’s unclear how such a deal would avert a government shutdown. With just 10 days left to fund the government, the new plan sets up a standoff with the Senate over how to keep the government open.
As part of the deal, Republicans now believe they have the votes to move forward on the yearlong spending bill that five conservative hardliners scuttled just Tuesday.
GOP Rep. Mike Garcia of California said after Wednesday evening’s conference meeting there is now “a little more clarity” on the path forward.
“We have a little more clarity as to a potential plan moving forward,” Garcia said, adding, “We are still negotiating that final number and trying to figure out exactly what we can do.”
Some of the people that were previously opposed now signaled they are supportive. Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Ken Buck of Colorado indicated they will flip to a yes on the rule and will vote to advance the Department of Defense bill Thursday after the speaker came down to the spending levels that Norman had been demanding.
“Sounds like we’ve got the votes for the rule,” Garcia said, pointing to Buck and Norman as having committed to changing to a “Yes.”
With McCarthy’s extremely thin margin in the chamber – and Democrats so far united against the GOP proposal – Republican leadership has been negotiating for days to try to win over enough GOP support to pass their legislation.
When asked about struggling to make progress earlier Wednesday, McCarthy repeated his favorite line, insisting he will never back down from a challenge no matter how messy.
“I wouldn’t quit the first time I went for the vote for speaker,” McCarthy said, a reference to how he was voted speaker only after 15 rounds and days of voting in January. “The one thing if you haven’t learned anything about me yet, I will never quit.”
McCarthy and his GOP leadership team have been trying to sell the House Republican Conference on unifying behind a plan to fund the government, brokered between the House Freedom Caucus and the more moderate Main Street Caucus over the weekend. But that proposed legislation encountered immediate opposition from more than a dozen far-right Republican lawmakers who wanted deeper spending cuts attached.
Amid that impasse with conservatives, moderates in the bipartisan House Problem Solver’s Caucus are close to finalizing their own framework on a short-term spending bill that would fund the government for several months at current levels and include Ukraine aid and disaster assistance, according to two sources. Even with Democratic support, that plan would still likely face major challenges – not the least of which is how it would get to the floor before the government runs out of money.
There are already signs that this alternative plan could face its own strong headwinds – not just with Republicans but with Democrats. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a progressive Democrat from Washington state, told CNN’s Manu Raju on “Inside Politics” that she wants a “clean” continuing resolution of funds, a sign that progressives may not back some of the border security provisions that the Problem Solvers Caucus members are eyeing.
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries met with the House Problem Solvers Caucus earlier Wednesday, and said afterward that they need a bipartisan agreement in line with what was already negotiated in the debt ceiling package.
“We need to find a bipartisan agreement consistent with what was previously reached,” he said.
Members were advised on Tuesday to keep their schedules flexible as weekend votes were possible. Members filtering in and out of Whip Emmer’s office the past two days are insistent that they are making progress, but Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota told CNN that while they are getting closer, they are not close yet.
Rep. Garrett Graves from Louisiana, who has been in the room for negotiations, echoed that schedule change and projected Friday and Saturday work.
“I think we’re going to be here this weekend,” he said.
When pressed on what exactly they’d be up to and if they’d be able to vote by Saturday, Graves said, “Well, we won’t be having Mardi Gras parties,” indicating they’d be voting.
Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican from Arkansas who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, lambasted the hardliners, calling it a “breach of duty.”
“We’ve got a handful of people that are holding the rest of the conference, the majority of our conference kind of held hostage right now and in turn, holding up America,” he told CNN.
Womack also said this will likely extend into the weekend and that “either it’s gonna be good or it’s gonna be bad.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.