‘Dead on Departure’: Shutdown Odds Skyrocket As House Republicans Flail 

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 20: U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) walks back to his office after votes on the House floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 20, 2023. (Photo by Elizabet... WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 20: U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) walks back to his office after votes on the House floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 20, 2023. (Photo by Elizabeth Frantz for The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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TPM’s Emine Yücel contributed reporting from Capitol Hill.

House Republicans worked late into the night Wednesday to craft a short-term spending bill that has a chance of passing through the chamber. 

What they emerged with seems unlikely — at best — to garner enough support. And even if it does, it’s dead on arrival in the Senate, making a shutdown all but inevitable. 

“I don’t know how much clearer we can make it to McCarthy that what he’s looking at is dead on arrival,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told TPM of the new bill. 

“I don’t think it’s even going to arrive — dead on departure,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) added.

“Speaker McCarthy is genuinely struggling to rein in his Republican caucus,” Coons told TPM. “I have some empathy for the fact that he’s dealing with folks so far to the right that they are determined to demand concessions so extreme that the rest of his party can’t vote for them. And I think the odds of a shutdown caused by the dysfunction in the House Republican caucus are steadily increasing.” 

Over in the House, the new continuing resolution survived for all of a few hours before members ranging from the House Freedom caucus to the Democratic minority declared it to be on life support. Though the new CR was crafted to bring the obstinate far-right members on board, it still didn’t meet their demands panned on all sides as purposefully unrealistic.

“We are not going to pass a CR with Republican votes,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told reporters as he walked into the House chamber. 

And fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ) told reporters he is a “hard no” on a possible continuing resolution. 

The dysfunction has reached such a fever pitch that lawmakers are left preparing for the shutdown more than working to avert it. 

“We have given bonuses already, early bonuses, to our staff,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) told reporters. 

The House Freedom contingent, which McCarthy consistently enabled in his quest for the speaker’s gavel, has been more inclined to shoot down potential compromises than to list what they’d actually vote for, putting the rest of Congress in a bind.  

“There’s five or six people who are going to vote ‘no’ no matter what,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), one of the most vulnerable Republican members, told reporters.

Some lawmakers spitballed about the House Republicans’ political motive in burning it all down. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed that they think a shutdown helps Donald Trump’s reelection chances. 

“Is their goal to say ‘Well, we got it done in the House. It’s the Democrats in the Senate’s fault,’” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) asked TPM hypothetically. “So we spend all the time like the Spider Man meme pointing at each other, playing a blame game.”

It’s been clear since the debt ceiling standoff that with several House Republicans being purposefully impossible to please, the only way to move must-pass legislation through the House would entail a collaboration between the rest of the House Republicans plus Democrats. 

But McCarthy still hasn’t pivoted to that obvious conclusion, perhaps still burned from the procedural punishment the far-right members unleashed on him after the last compromise, and likely out of fear of losing his leadership post. Reports surfaced Tuesday suggesting Gaetz has already penned a motion to vacate the speaker. 

If the government does shut down, as seems near certain, the question of when it would reopen is intrinsically tied to when McCarthy decides to work with House Democrats to pass at least a short-term funding bill devoid of poison pills. 

“The House and the Senate have to sign off on a budget to keep the government open,” Warren told TPM. “That means a handful of Republican extremists are now running the world in Washington.” 

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