Top US House Democrat sees Republican 'civil war' as shutdown looms

September 18, 2023 11:40 am

[Source: Reuters]

With a possible partial government shutdown looming in two weeks amid what a senior Democrat called a Republican “civil war,” House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Sunday vowed to bring a defence spending bill to a vote “win or lose” this week despite resistance from hardline fellow Republicans.

Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, faulted the Republicans who hold a narrow 221-212 majority in the chamber as they bicker over overspending and pursue a new impeachment drive against President Joe Biden while the United States faces a possible fourth partial government shutdown in a decade.

McCarthy is struggling to bring fiscal 2024 spending legislation to the House floor with Republicans fractured by hardline conservative demands for spending to be cut back to a 2022 level of $1.47 trillion – $120 billion below the spending that McCarthy agreed with Biden in May.

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McCarthy has also begun to face calls for floor action seeking his ouster from hardline conservatives and others who have accused him of failing to keep promises he made to become speaker in January following a revolt from some of the most conservative Republicans in the House.

The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate have until Oct. 1 to avoid a partial shutdown by enacting appropriations bills that Biden, a Democrat, can sign into law, or by passing a short-term stopgap spending measure to give lawmakers more time for debate.

McCarthy signalled a tougher stand with hardliners, telling the Fox News “Sunday Morning Futures” program that he would bring the stalled defence bill to the floor this week. The House last week postponed a vote on beginning debate on the defence appropriations bill due to opposition from the hardliners.

McCarthy also said he wants to make sure there is no shutdown on Oct. 1, saying: “A shutdown would only give strength to the Democrats.”

McCarthy has held closed-door discussions over the weekend aimed at overcoming a roadblock by the conservative hardliners to spending legislation. They want assurances that legislation will include their deep spending cuts, as well as conservative policy priorities including provisions related to tighter border security that are unlikely to secure Democratic votes.

Representative Elise Stefanik, the No. 4 House Republican, told the “Fox News Sunday” program that she was optimistic about moving forward on appropriations after closed-door discussions.

But Republican Representative Nancy Mace told ABC’s “This Week” that she expects a shutdown and did not rule out support for a vote to oust McCarthy’s ouster. Mace complained that the speaker has not made good on promises to her involving action on women’s issues and gun violence.

Mace played down the consequences of a shutdown, saying much of the government would remain in operation and that the hiatus would give government workers time off with back pay at a later date.

Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that a shutdown would risk harming the most vulnerable members of society who depend on government assistance.