The far right has been feuding with McCarthy for weeks. Here’s how it’s spiraling into a shutdown.

Sep 28, 2023, 9:01 PM

FILE - From left, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa...

FILE - From left, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., propose amendments to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill before the House Rules Committee, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With little time left to prevent a government shutdown, the House is in a familiar position: effectively paralyzed as conservatives feud with Speaker Kevin McCarthy over matters large and small.

McCarthy has pushed the Republican conference to embrace a short-term funding plan that would also include a sweeping Republican proposal for the southern border. But a small group of hardline conservatives has defied the speaker in a quest to get rid of stopgap funding plans, known as continuing resolutions, even if opposing them means forcing a government shutdown.

It’s left McCarthy at an impasse. He will likely be left with the political damage of a shutdown unless he turns to Democrats for help in passing a bipartisan bill. But working with Democrats would give hard-right Republicans reason to remove him as speaker.

Here’s what to know about the House Republicans’ conflict and where it may be headed:


At its core, the conflict is over how far to the right House Republicans should push legislation — and what level of compromise, if any, is acceptable.

Pragmatic-minded Republicans acknowledge they hold just one chamber of Congress and must negotiate legislation with a Democratic president and the Democratic-held Senate. But some conservatives, organized around the House Freedom Caucus — as well as the score of Republicans who opposed McCarthy’s bid to become speaker — have taken combative stands as they try to disrupt business as usual in Washington.

They are determined to not only slash spending levels but remake the U.S. government, which they view with growing enmity and criticize as “woke and weaponized.” Some conservatives have downplayed the effects of a government shutdown and even contend that it would have benefits.

“The Biden regulatory agenda comes to a grinding halt with a government shutdown,” Russell Vought, an influential strategist among the right-wing lawmakers, posted on social media this week.

In the current clash over funding the government, the debate has centered on whether Congress should use stopgap funding legislation to keep government offices running and paychecks for federal employees flowing beyond Sept. 30, when the government’s fiscal year expires.


McCarthy is urging his fellow House Republicans to avoid the political pain of causing a shutdown as he tries to protect his narrow House majority. But because Republicans had such a slim majority to begin with, even a handful of holdouts can demand concessions or prevent the party from moving forward on legislation.

In his eight months as speaker, McCarthy has at times surprised Washington with his ability to maneuver with his fragile majority. But now that he is facing a government shutdown, he is caught between commitments he made during the two major crises Congress faced this year: the fight over choosing a House speaker and negotiations to suspend the nation’s debt limit.

McCarthy had to win support from almost every House Republican in his grueling bid to become speaker in January. To do so, he made a range of concessions, including an agreement to cut government spending to certain levels and pass each of the 12 annual appropriations bills individually.

Then in June, as he negotiated with President Joe Biden to suspend the nation’s debt limit, McCarthy agreed to hold the government’s annual discretionary funding to $1.59 trillion. That deal passed the House, in part due to support from Democrats.

“He’s made promises to part of the conference with the deal that he cut with President Biden on certain numbers,” said Republican Rep. Ken Buck, who is part of the House Freedom Caucus. “Then he’s made promises to get elected speaker to a different part of the conference. And those two numbers are pretty far apart.”

McCarthy’s allies have insisted the speaker has kept his word and is still fighting for the spending levels he promised Republicans in January.


Rep. Matt Gaetz, a bombastic conservative and close ally to former President Donald Trump, has emerged as the chief foil to McCarthy. The Florida Republican rallied GOP lawmakers to resist McCarthy’s bid to become speaker in January and is now openly threatening a bid to remove him from the office.

At a closed-door GOP meeting on Thursday, Gaetz confronted McCarthy and asked whether he was involved in a campaign of conservative internet influencers posting negative things about him. The speaker retorted that he would not waste time on something like that, according to Gaetz.

Gaetz’s tactics prompted profanity-laced derision from Rep. French Hill, a close McCarthy ally.

McCarthy has tried to call Gaetz’s bluff and dared him to move on his threats. But for now, Gaetz is mostly focused on rallying Republicans, such as Reps. Andy Ogles of Tennessee, Anna Paulina Luna of Florida and Eli Crane of Arizona, to stand firm in opposing any temporary funding bill.

As House Republicans scrambled to find a path forward this week, Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Republican fiscal hardliner, blasted GOP leadership for failing to bring up spending bills for House votes long before the end of the fiscal year.

“This is an incredible failure on the part of leadership by not starting this process back in June, July, when we would have had ample time to get through it all,” he said.

McCarthy has pointed the finger back at Gaetz and the conservatives, saying work on the appropriations bills was delayed all summer and into the fall due to their demands.

“When they stop the bills from coming up, and if he votes against a continuing resolution, it’s my fault? That’s interesting,” McCarthy said.

In the background, Trump has also urged the hardline conservatives to hold out for sweeping concessions even if a shutdown is needed.

Biden, meanwhile, has avoided the fight in Congress besides repeatedly blaming House Republicans for the dysfunction. He has called on McCarthy to enforce the spending levels agreed to in the debt limit deal.

McCarthy has tried to drag Biden into the debate, calling on him to meet with Republicans to discuss the border security proposals that the speaker wants to attach to the temporary funding legislation.


A government shutdown is almost inevitable at this point. But the duration of the shutdown, as well as the future of McCarthy’s speakership, is impossible to predict.

For now, McCarthy is still searching for support from his own party, hoping he can leverage his thin majority to force negotiations with Democrats. But the Senate is working on a temporary, bipartisan funding plan that is likely to pass in the coming days, adding more pressure on McCarthy to work with Democrats to avert a shutdown.

If McCarthy works with Democrats, Gaetz has promised he’ll try to oust McCarthy by filing a so-called “ motion to vacate the chair.” Procedural votes could be offered to halt the motion, or it could trigger a House floor vote on whether McCarthy should remain speaker.

Some House Democrats have signaled a willingness to help McCarthy remain speaker if conservatives try to oust him, though they’ll likely want something in return.

If McCarthy refuses to support a bipartisan plan, some moderate House Republicans are considering joining with Democrats to force a vote on such a bill.

Either development would be extraordinary in modern politics and could send the House into even more turmoil.


Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Lisa Mascaro contributed reporting.

United States News

Associated Press

3 people killed and 1 wounded in shooting at Atlanta apartment building, police say

ATLANTA (AP) — A shooting in Atlanta killed three people and left one victim wounded Saturday evening, police say. The Atlanta Police Department said officers responded to an address on Peachtree Road NE in the city’s Buckhead district around 6:25 p.m., WANF-TV reported. Police said three victims in their 20s were pronounced dead at the […]

2 hours ago

Heisman Trophy finalists, from left, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, Ohio State wide receiver Marvi...

Associated Press

LSU QB Jayden Daniels overcomes being outside CFP race to win Heisman Trophy with prolific season

NEW YORK (AP) — LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, becoming the first player since 2016 to win college football’s most prestigious player of the year award as part of a team that did not play for a conference championship. The fifth-year player, who transferred from Arizona State to LSU […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Homes damaged, power knocked out as severe weather rakes Tennessee

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An apparent tornado tore roofs off homes and knocked out power to thousands in Tennessee on Saturday as a line of severe storms raked the state. Police and firefighters in Clarksville were responding to multiple reports of damage in the northern part of the city, which is north of Nashville near […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

The NRA has a surprising defender in its free speech case before the Supreme Court: the ACLU

NEW YORK (AP) — In a case of politics making strange bedfellows, the National Rifle Association will be represented by frequent nemesis the American Civil Liberties Union in an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. The New York-based civil liberties group confirmed Saturday that it would provide legal representation for the gun-rights group in its […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

US Coast Guard helicopter that crashed during rescue mission in Alaska is recovered

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A helicopter that crashed in southeast Alaska during a rescue mission last month has been recovered, the U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday. The downed Coast Guard helicopter was recovered Friday and an investigation was ongoing. The MH-60 Jayhawk crashed on Read Island, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Sitka, on […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Consumer product agency issues warning on small magnetic balls linked to deaths

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning about the danger of high-powered, pea-sized magnets found in toys, announcing one company’s recall of a set containing them and saying it was aware of seven deaths linked to their ingestion. The federal agency estimated that ingestion of the magnets led to 2,400 hospital emergency room visits […]

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]

Follow @KTAR923...

West Hunsaker at Morris Hall supports Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona

KTAR's Community Spotlight this month focuses on Morris Hall and its commitment to supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona.

The far right has been feuding with McCarthy for weeks. Here’s how it’s spiraling into a shutdown.