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House rejects McCarthy-backed bill to avoid government shutdown as deadline nears

Short-term funding bill fails, shutdown looms
Kevin McCarthy's short-term funding bill fails as shutdown looms 01:56

Washington — The House on Friday rejected a measure backed by Speaker Kevin McCarthy that would have kept the government open for a month at reduced spending levels, with a group of hard-right Republicans handing McCarthy yet another defeat in his efforts to avoid a government shutdown.

The 165-page bill, known as a continuing resolution, failed by a vote of 198 to 232. Twenty-one Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against the legislation.

The level of GOP opposition was larger than expected. A number of Republican holdouts who have objected to passing a short-term deal were apparently unmoved by the inclusion of billions of dollars to bolster security at the U.S.-Mexico border, which McCarthy had hoped would attract their support.

Following the vote, McCarthy said he had "other ideas" and would meet with Republican members later Friday to chart a path forward. Asked what the logical next step is, McCarthy replied: "Keep working and make sure we solve this problem."

The race to avoid a government shutdown

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy listens to a question during a press conference at the Capitol on Sept. 29, 2023.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy listens to a question during a press conference at the Capitol on Sept. 29, 2023. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The bill's failure comes ahead of the fast-approaching deadline to avoid a government shutdown, which would technically begin at 12 a.m. Sunday when funding for most federal agencies expires.

A shutdown would force millions of federal employees to go on furlough or continue working without getting paid until the funding lapse ends. Most of the effects wouldn't begin to be felt until Monday morning, when employees would report to work to start implementing agency-specific shutdown procedures.

Even if it passed the House, McCarthy's bill would not have been taken up by the Senate, which is working on its own bipartisan legislation. President Biden also promised to veto the House bill before the vote, further sealing its fate.

Roughly a dozen far-right Republicans have said they wouldn't support or were unlikely to support any continuing resolution. With just a four-seat majority in the House, McCarthy has failed so far to craft a bill that would fund the government and attract majority support in both chambers. Democrats are opposed to GOP-backed spending cuts and want government funding extended at current levels. If McCarthy pursues passing a bill with Democratic support, the group of hard-right holdouts have threatened to call a vote for his ouster.

Attention now turns to the Senate. The legislation introduced by Senate Democrats was still being negotiated Friday, but an early version would extend government funding at current levels until Nov. 17. It also includes billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, which many Republicans in the House oppose. McCarthy has said Ukraine aid should be taken up separately, and the House voted to approve $300 million in aid on Thursday night, an amount far below what senators and the White House are calling for.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to expect a preliminary vote on the Democratic version of the bill on Saturday morning if lawmakers failed to reach a bipartisan agreement on Friday.

Alan He, Jack Turman and Jacqueline Kalil contributed reporting.

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