With government funding slated to run out September 30, the leaders of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus told CNN on Sunday that “all options are on the table” to force a vote on their alternative stopgap plan to avert a shutdown.
There is no consensus plan to keep the government funded, and persistent opposition by a bloc of conservatives to House GOP leadership’s agenda has made any effort to pass a stopgap bill in the House a major challenge.
While the caucus leaders, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Josh Gottheimer, said they hope House Speaker Kevin McCarthy puts the measure on the floor, they said they have spoken with the parliamentarian about other avenues and raised the possibility of using a discharge petition – an arcane procedural step – to force a vote.
The procedural tool can be used to force a floor vote, but only if a majority of House members sign on in support. Discharge petitions rarely succeed because of how high the threshold is to clear.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to get that bill on the floor. … A discharge petition is one of several options, and a group of us met with the parliamentarian this past week to discuss all the options we have to force a vote on our bill,” Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, added: “I think our plan is reasonable. And it deals with the extremes and … instead of burning the place down as, Speaker McCarthy said of the far right, it actually provides a reasonable, commonsense solution working with people like Brian Fitzpatrick who want to get things done.”
The caucus last week endorsed a potential backup plan if House Republicans are unable to pass their stopgap bill alone. The bill would fund the government through January 11 and include Ukraine aid, disaster response and border security provisions.
“This is a decision the speaker is gonna have to make. He can bring that reasonable bill to the floor that we’ve proposed, and I guarantee you’re gonna get Democrats (and) Republicans coming together to support it and we can keep the lights on,” Gottheimer said.
McCarthy, who is under pressure and has faced threats of an ouster, said Saturday he still lacks support from a handful of GOP hardliners to put a stopgap measure on the floor, making a shutdown likely.
Rep. Tim Burchett, one of the holdouts, told CNN on Sunday he is still a “no” on passing a stopgap funding bill.
“No, ma’am,” the Tennessee Republican told Bash. “I think it’s completely blowing away our duties. We have a duty to pass a budget.”
He also said he would strongly consider support for ousting McCarthy if the California Republican cuts a deal with Democrats to keep the government open.
“That would be something I’d look strongly at, ma’am, if we do away with our duty that we said we’re going to do,” Burchett said.
McCarthy has been hoping the momentum of a handful of appropriations bills, which will head to the House floor this week, would bring some of those holdouts into the fold. But Burchett’s comments Sunday are the latest indication that hope may be in vain.
“We’re sticking to our guns and all of a sudden we’re the bad guys because we want to balance our budget,” Burchett said.
Another holdout, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said Sunday that McCarthy is in “breach” of promises he made regarding government spending when elected speaker.
“We should have separate single-subject spending bills. Kevin McCarthy promised that in January, he is in breach of that promise, so I’m not here to hold the government hostage, I’m here to hold Kevin McCarthy to his word,” Gaetz said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Gaetz added it would be fine if some departments shut down for a few days if it meant measures such as the Homeland Security appropriations bill passed first.
“If, you know, the (departments) of Labor and Education have to shut down for a few days as we get their appropriations in line, that’s certainly not something that is optimal, but I think it’s better than continuing on the current path we are to America’s financial ruin,” Gaetz said.
The holdouts’ comments come as the White House urges Republicans to find a solution, warning that a government shutdown could threaten crucial federal programs.
“Funding the government is one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress, and it’s time for Republicans to start doing the job America elected them to do,” President Joe Biden said Sunday at an event held by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
Speaking on Sunday to CNN’s Bash, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called on House Republicans to “come to their senses and keep the government running.”
“This is something that can and should be prevented,” Buttigieg said on “State of the Union.” He echoed Biden administration talking points, saying Republicans should hold up their end of the agreement made this year during debt ceiling negotiations.
The White House has warned of massive disruptions to air travel if the government shuts down, as tens of thousands of air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration personnel will have to work without pay.
“They’re under enough stress as it is doing that job without having to come into work with the added stress of not receiving a paycheck,” Buttigieg said of air traffic controllers.
He added, “The American people don’t want to shutdown. From what I can tell, the Senate is ready to go. The administration is ready to go. House Republicans need to come to their senses and keep the government running.”