Is a government shutdown coming? Why Republican lawmakers are split on whether to brace for impact

WASHINGTON — With less than a week before a potential government shutdown and no clear resolution in sight, lawmakers are split on whether the country should brace for the wide-ranging impacts of a shutdown.

In the House, where most of the fight over government spending has been taking place, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has struggled to unite House Republicans behind a deal as conservative hardliners block almost all of McCarthy’s attempts at avoiding a shutdown.

As a result, some GOP lawmakers have resigned themselves to the government closing its doors, given how little time is remaining for lawmakers to meet their deadline and the ongoing turmoil that has engulfed the House.

“I don't want to see a shutdown, but there is no doubt in my mind that the country is headed for a shutdown, and everyone should prepare as such,” Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, did not share Gonzales’ ominous forecast in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” but he admitted McCarthy and House Republicans are in a difficult situation given their razor-thin four seat majority in the lower chamber and the ultraconservative lawmakers who have been impeding McCarthy every step of the way.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in Washington.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in Washington.

“I’ll bet on Kevin McCarthy any day. And we certainly have time yet to go,” Turner said. “But he’s in a very difficult position because the holdouts keep saying to Kevin McCarthy, ‘Don’t bring bipartisan bills to the floor. We don’t want you to use Democrat votes to try to avert a shutdown.”

One of the conservative holdouts, Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., argued he and his conservative colleagues are just looking to “balance our budget,” on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“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.

As the country inches closer to the Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government, the only path forward for McCarthy to avert a shutdown is to pass a short-term funding measure to buy lawmakers more time to negotiate a longer-term deal. But the problem with the measure – referred to as a continuing resolution – is that holdouts such as Burchett have said they would never vote for such legislation.

“I’ve not voted for a CR. I didn’t vote for one under President Trump, and I haven’t voted for any in our past. I think it’s just completely throwing away our duties. We have a duty to pass a budget,” Burchett said Sunday.

With little to no visible progress being made for weeks, moderate GOP lawmakers have started backchannel discussions with Democrats on a fallback plan to avert a shutdown because their hard-right colleagues have shown zero interest in budging.

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., talks to reporters as he arrives for a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on September 14, 2023 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., talks to reporters as he arrives for a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on September 14, 2023 in Washington, DC.

The Problem Solvers Caucus, a centrist coalition evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, unveiled a bipartisan framework last week to avoid a shutdown. On the table for the group, led by co-chairs Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., is an archaic legislative process called a discharge petition. The move would force a bill on the floor without the need for the speaker’s approval, circumventing McCarthy.

“I think all options are on the table to get our bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus bill on the floor,” Fitzpatrick said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We don’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good and we take the perspective that we’d rather get 80% of something rather than 100% of nothing.”

“We will do whatever it takes to get that bill on the floor,” he added.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Government shutdown? Republican lawmakers split on spending fight