McCarthy expresses optimism on averting government shutdown

(WASHINGTON) — To avert a shutdown, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said the House should still try to pass a Republican short-term funding measure next week in addition to the individual spending bills, despite GOP holdouts.

“I would like to — you need to — because I don’t know how else in a shutdown,” he said when asked if he plans to move forward with a continuing resolution despite a handful of GOP holdouts.

McCarthy said a shutdown would put Republicans in a “weaker position.”

“We will continue to work with people,” he said. “I just believe if you’re not funding the troops and you’re not funding the border. It’s pretty difficult to think that you’re going to win in a shutdown.”

The House plans to vote on a handful of appropriations bills next week, including measures funding the Departments of Homeland Security, State and Defense. Notably, McCarthy said he’ll remove $300 million for training of soldiers in Ukraine from the Pentagon spending bill and instead hold a separate vote on it.

“I think we’ve made some progress to those who have been holding up passing the rule to get on to these bills. We’ve got members working, and hopefully we’ll be able to move forward on Tuesday to pass these bills,” McCarthy said.

When asked whether he would put a continuing resolution from the Senate on the floor, McCarthy said, “So you just asked me something that hasn’t happened. So, I don’t know if you asked [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer what he would do if I sent him a [continuing resolution] that keeps the government open.”

The Senate has not yet sent McCarthy any legislation that would keep the government open. Typically, bills that fund the government for any period of time must start in the House. But as the process stalls int he House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled Thursday that the upper chamber may take matters into its own hands.

On Thursday afternoon, before the Senate left Washington for a long weekend, Schumer took the first steps to allow the Senate to begin work on their own short term funding bill next week.

“As I’ve said for months, we must work in a bipartisan fashion to keep our government open, avoid a shutdown, and avoid inflicting unnecessary pain on the American people,” Schumer said on the floor as he took the first procedural step to allow the Senate to advance a separate bill. “This action will give the Senate the option to do just that.”

Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been more or less in lock step over funding the government. The Senate is largely expected to pass a short-term funding bill that keeps government funding at current levels while providing disaster relief and Ukraine aid.

It could prove difficult for the Senate to expedite passage of any such bill, with several Republicans threatening to stall proceedings over Ukraine funding.

Still, the Senate could likely pass a short-term funding bill and send it to McCarthy as soon as next week, with the Senate working across the aisle.

But McCarthy dodged a question on whether he’s willing to work with Democrats on funding the government.

“I believe we have a majority here and we can work together to solve this. This is the same place you were all asking me during the debt ceiling. So, you know what, it might take us a little longer. But this is important,” he said.

But McCarthy has had a difficult time holding his conference together. The House on Thursday failed for the second time this week to bring up the GOP defense spending bill for debate in an embarrassing setback for McCarthy.

The five Republicans who balked their party on that vote cited a variety of reasons, all broadly linked to frustration with how McCarthy, R-Calif., has handled the government funding fight.

“It’s frustrating in a sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate,” McCarthy vented.

“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. That doesn’t work,” he said.

Democrats have made clear they will pin blame for a shutdown on House Republicans if the government is unable to reach a deal.

“Today extreme House Republicans showed yet again that their chaos is marching us toward a reckless and damaging government shutdown. Extreme House Republicans can’t even get an agreement among themselves, to keep the government running or to fund the military,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.

“The solution is very, very simple. Extreme House Republicans need to stop playing political games with people’s lives. There’s so much at stake here,” she added.

With the continued inability to stitch together a coalition, McCarthy looks increasingly unable to control the floor, and Congress and the government remain on a path to a government shutdown at the end of the month.

Government agencies are increasingly preparing for that possibility. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was beginning to reach out to federal agencies Friday to remind them to update their contingency plans for a government shutdown, an OMB official told ABC News.

The White House budget office would typically warn agencies at this time that they should be making preparations for a lapse in funding.

In a budget document released last month, the office noted: “One week prior to the expiration of appropriations bills, regardless of whether the enactment of appropriations appears imminent, OMB will communicate with agency senior officials to remind agencies of their responsibilities to review and update orderly shutdown plans and will share a draft communication template to notify employees of the status of appropriations.”

Several agencies have already updated their plans for how to proceed if the government shuts down. The plans outline how many employees are in each agency and what type of jobs would be required to report to work without pay.

As many as four million government workers — roughly half of whom are military troops and personnel — could lose pay if Congress does not avert a shutdown by the end of the day on Sept. 30.

ABC News’ Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

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