McCarthy Faces Difficult Week Ahead, With No Movement on Spending Deal and Impeachment Inquiry Looming

As he tries to reconcile both his conservative colleagues’ demands with Democrats in the Senate and White House, it is increasingly likely that the speaker will face a challenge for his job.

AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Speaker McCarthy at the Capitol, September 12, 2023. He says he's directing a House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

With the first impeachment inquiry hearing set for Thursday and a government shutdown likely beginning on Sunday, Kevin McCarthy is facing the most difficult week of his tenure as Speaker of the House so far. His inability to satisfy the right flank of his caucus could swiftly end his speakership as soon as the end of the week. 

After a six-week recess that began in July, Mr. McCarthy brought Congress into session on September 12, hoping to mollify conservative dissenters by opening an impeachment inquiry into President Biden while advancing the 12 federal spending bills needed to fund the federal government. In less than two weeks, no legislation has moved, and as acrimony grows within the GOP, it will be a heavy lift to get much of anything done before the October 1 shut down. 

Congress will return on Tuesday and attempt to finalize the legislation. Mr. McCarthy had warned members last week that they should expect to work through this past weekend in order to write the funding bills, but an embarrassing loss on a key rule vote for Mr. McCarthy on Thursday forced him to send all legislators home for the weekend. 

Republicans were planning to begin debate on this year’s Pentagon funding bill, one of the 12 appropriations bills that Congress must pass. Yet when the House voted on the question of whether or not to begin debate, five conservatives surprised GOP leadership by voting with the Democrats to kill the measure.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said she objected to the $300 million included in the bill for Ukraine aid, while another conservative, Congressman Eli Crane, said he will not vote for any spending bill until all 12 have been written. 

Speaking to reporters shortly after the rule vote failed, Mr. McCarthy did not mince words about his five conservative colleagues. They “just want to burn the whole place down,” the speaker said just outside the House chamber. “That doesn’t work.”

In a sign of how unlikely passage of these bills is before the shutdown deadline, Mr. McCarthy is already floating the idea of a short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, that will last for 45 days so he and his colleagues can finish their work, according to Punchbowl News.

Shortly after that news was reported, however, several conservative House members said they would not support any short-term deal, among them Mr. Crane and Congressman Matt Rosendale. 

Mr. McCarthy also reportedly told members on a conference call that he wants to avoid a government shutdown because of the looming state legislative races in Virginia, which will take place in early November. Governor Youngkin has been campaigning for the better part of a year to flip control of the state senate to Republican from Democrat so he can pass major tax reform and enact a 15-week abortion ban. 

President Trump has also weighed in on the spending fight, asking Republicans to avoid any possible deal unless they get “everything” they want, which is impossible given the Democratic Senate and Democratic president. 

“Close the Border, stop the Weaponization of ‘Justice,’ and End Election Interference,” the former president wrote on Truth Social. “It’s time Republicans learned how to fight! Are you listening [to] Mitch McConnell, the weakest, dumbest, and most conflicted ‘Leader’ in U.S. Senate history?”

Mr. McCarthy is unlikely to get any help from Democrats as he seeks deeper and deeper funding cuts to appease his conservative members and launches his impeachment inquiry into the president. The top Democrat on the Rules Committee, Congressman Jim McGovern, said Mr. McCarthy has the government “hurtling toward a shutdown.” 

“Republican leadership had months to work on these bills, but we are just now starting to whip for them?” the congressman asked during a Rules Committee hearing on Friday. “The ongoing civil war within the Republican party has sucked all the air and all the reason out of the room.”

Senator Schumer has already seen the writing on the wall when it comes to the dysfunction in the House and has said he is working with his Republican counterpart, Senator McConnell, to advance a short-term funding bill in the hopes of foisting it on the lower chamber. 

“We may now have to go first … given the House,” Mr. Schumer told CNN on Friday. “Leader McConnell and I are talking and we have a great deal of agreement on many parts of this. It’s never easy to get a big bill, a CR bill done, but I am very, very optimistic that McConnell and I can find a way and get a large number of votes both Democratic and Republican in the Senate.”

As Mr. McCarthy flounders in the House, Mr. Schumer has quietly teed up a vote on the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. The reauthorization, which was passed by the House and sent to the Senate in July, could have a continuing resolution attached to it this week before the shutdown. 

On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee will also have its first impeachment inquiry hearing into Mr. Biden. A spokesman for the committee told NBC News that “the hearing will focus on constitutional and legal questions surrounding the President’s involvement in corruption and abuse of public office.”

The spokesman also said that subpoenas will be issued for Hunter Biden and the president’s brother, James Biden, as early as this week. “The Oversight Committee will continue to follow the evidence and money trail to provide the transparency and accountability that Americans demand from their government,” the spokesman said. 

The looming question for Mr. McCarthy, as he attempts to pass these bills and reconcile them with Democrats, is whether or not he can avoid a “motion to vacate,” a motion that can be brought to the House floor by any one member that calls for a vote to remove Mr. McCarthy from his position. 

An ally of Republican leadership, Congressman Garret Graves, told CNN he has authored a motion to vacate and may bring it to the House floor just to force conservatives to “get the little games over with.”

“I drafted a motion to vacate for the speaker as well,” he told CNN. “If you’re gonna keep hanging this over [Mr. McCarthy’s] head and playing these games, let’s just get it over with.”


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