Speaker Kevin McCarthy: ‘Shutdown Would Only Give Strength to the Democrats’

With a potential partial government shutdown in two weeks, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy vowed Sunday to bring a defense spending bill to a vote “win or lose” this week despite facing resistance from fellow hardline Republicans.

Democrat Representative and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York blamed Republicans, who have a slim 221-212 majority in the chamber, as they continue to bicker over the impeachment push against President Joe Biden and spending. At the same time, the U.S. faces a possible fourth partial government shutdown in the past decade.

“Let’s be clear: House Republicans are in the middle of a civil war,” said Jeffries to ABC’s “This Week” program, and added the result has been “chaos, dysfunction and extremism” in Congress.

Speaker McCarthy continues to struggle to bring fiscal 2024 legislation on spending to the floor of the House with the GOP fractured by demands from hardline conservatives for spending to be cut back to the 2022 level of $1.47 trillion — which is $120 billion below the spending the speaker agreed to with the president in May.

“What we should be focused on right now is avoiding an unnecessary government shutdown that will hurt the ability of our economy to continue to recover,” said Jeffries.

McCarthy has faced calls for his ouster

McCarthy has also begun facing calls for floor action to seek his ouster from hardline conservatives and others who accuse him of failing to keep promises he made to be elected speaker in January after a revolt from some of the most conservative GOP members in the House.

The House, which is controlled by Republicans, and the Democrat-led Senate have until October 1 to avoid a partial government shutdown by enacting appropriations bills that President Biden, a Democrat, can sign into law or by passing a short-term stopgap measure to give legislators additional time to debate.

McCarthy took a tougher stand with hardliners and said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” program he would bring the stalled defense spending bill to the chamber’s floor this week. Last week, the House postponed a vote to start the debate on the defense appropriations bill due to hardliner opposition.

“We’ll bring it to the floor, win or lose, and show the American public who’s for the Department of Defense, who’s for our military,” said McCarthy.

The speaker also said he wants to ensure there isn’t a shutdown on October 1, saying, “A shutdown would only give strength to the Democrats.”

Speaker McCarthy held closed-door talks over the weekend aimed at overcoming a roadblock by conservative hardliners to legislation on spending. They want assurances that any legislation will include deep spending cuts and conservative policy priorities, including provisions related to stricter border security that are unlikely to secure Democrat votes.

“We made some good progress,” said McCarthy.

Representative Elise Stefanik, the number four Republican in the House, told the “Fox News Sunday” program that she remained optimistic about moving forward on appropriations after discussions behind closed doors.

However, GOP Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina told ABC’s “This Week” that she expects a shutdown but didn’t rule out support for a vote to oust McCarthy. Mace complained that the speaker hasn’t made good on his promises to her involving actions on gun violence and women’s issues.

“Everything’s on the table at this point for me,” said Mace.

Rep. Mace played down the consequences of a potential shutdown and said much of the government would remain in operation and that government workers would be given time off and back pay later.

Former Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California said a shutdown would risk harming the most vulnerable members of society dependent on government assistance.

“We’re talking about diminishing even something as simple and fundamental as feeding the children,” said Pelosi to MSNBC. “We have to try to avoid it.”