Government shutdown fears grow as House GOP spending bill fails

WASHINGTON — House GOP leaders failed Friday to pass a partisan, short-term spending bill with fewer than two days left to fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown.

The final vote was 198 to 232, with more than 20 Republicans voting to oppose their own party’s bill, embarrassing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

McCarthy had pitched the bill as at least a piecemeal, albeit doomed, step to avert a shutdown.

The government is scheduled to shut down at 12:01 a.m. ET Sunday if a funding bill is not approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Republicans who joined Democrats voting against the included several of McCarthy’s most outspoken antagonists, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Arizona’s Andy Biggs and Eli Crane.

The GOP bill would have funded the government through Oct. 31. But even if it had passed, it had effectively no chance of passing the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, or of Biden signing it.

The vote came a day after the Senate easily advanced its own short-term funding bill by a 76-22 margin. The next vote in that chamber is scheduled for Saturday.

The Senate bill is likely to be amended ahead of Saturday’s vote, and the next version could contain stronger border security measures that House Republicans are demanding.

Missing from the Senate vote this weekend will be Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who died Thursday at her Washington, D.C., home.

McCarthy had hoped that by passing its own spending bill, the House would have a counterpart to the Senate’s bill, setting the stage for differences between the two to be resolved in a conference.

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But Friday’s vote dashed those hopes and left the House Republican majority in an even weaker negotiating position.

“I think the failure to move something this afternoon clearly puts the advantage back on the Senate bill,” Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., told NBC News.

The House GOP caucus planned to meet later Friday to map out its next steps.

The bill’s failure provided political ammunition to Democrats and the White House, which blasted Republicans for engaging in brinksmanship.

“We’re doing everything we can to plead, beg, shame House Republicans to do the right thing,” Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters.

She scoffed at McCarthy’s suggestion that he would refuse his own paycheck during a shutdown.

“That is theater,” Young said.

“The guy who picks up the trash in my office won’t get a paycheck. That’s real.”

The White House said Biden would stay “in dialogue with Congress,” over the coming days, but insisted the core elements of any spending bill had been agreed to as part of the debt ceiling deal earlier this year.

Across Washington on Friday, government agencies prepared their employees and the public for the effects of a shutdown.

The Smithsonian Institution said it would use existing funds from last year to keep its museums and the National Zoo open for at least the next week.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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