With assists from POLITICO’s Congress team
TICK TOCK: The government will shut down in 10 days if Congress can’t pass a funding patch.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has moved to begin debate on a House bill that could serve as a vehicle for a continuing resolution keeping the government functioning past Sept. 30.
The move to tee up the House FAA bill is a signal that senators have lost patience with the House as it flounders in its attempts to pass any sort of appropriations legislation. With the chamber out Monday for Yom Kippur and a shutdown looming just four days later, senators have no time to waste.
“Fairly soon, it seems to me that Republicans and Democrats are going to have to get together and come up with something that the extremes of both parties don’t like,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said earlier in the afternoon, adding that the House still has time to send their own bill over.
Which brings us to …
THE BLUE-SCREEN MAJORITY
Another House Republican leadership plan hit the ash heap this afternoon after hard-right holdouts tanked a second rule that would have brought a Pentagon spending bill to the floor for passage this week — sending GOP lawmakers back to the drawing board and putting that familiar cerulean image back on TV screens across Capitol Hill.
— OUT: Any hopes of passing a continuing resolution over the weekend.
— IN: Trying to move forward on some of the other full-year appropriations bills that are awaiting floor action.
The details: Republican leaders are preparing a new rule that would tee up potential votes on the Defense, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations, Energy-Water or Agriculture-FDA bills, according to two members involved in the negotiations. The bills’ toplines would be trimmed down in order to get enough Republicans on board with passage, and the Ag bill’s prospects have improved, Meredith Lee Hill reports, after GOP leaders struck a compromise on a controversial abortion pill measure.
The timing: Completely unclear. There are still active talks in the conference about getting at least one bill ready for a vote this weekend, two members told us. “I think they’re going to call people back,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said.
The problem: There’s no way any appropriations bills written below the toplines that McCarthy agreed to with President Joe Biden in May will pass muster in the Senate. “Hell, no, they are not going to become law,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told Jordain.
Womack, a top appropriator, laid out where this latest plan is certain to lead: “Let me tell you what we’re risking right now. … We’re risking the Senate completing its work and sending it to us and saying, ‘Here you go.’”
The even bigger problem: Passing any of the full-year bills in the House does nothing to prevent an Oct. 1 shutdown. But it appears to be the only option McCarthy has as it becomes eminently clear he doesn’t have any way to pass a shutdown-averting CR without Democratic votes.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) emerged from negotiations in Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s office earlier today and declared that he was “giving the eulogy for a CR right now,” reiterating that he would never vote for one.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the House Freedom Caucus chair, did not rule out some sort of deal that could unlock a stopgap — “Matt’s not the only guy in the Congress,” he told reporters — but Perry’s efforts to forge a GOP consensus have so far fallen flat.
Meanwhile down Pennsylvania Avenue: The Office of Management and Budget plans to tell federal agencies on Friday to update their shutdown contingency plans if they haven’t already, an OMB official tells us. That directive from the White House budget office is a pretty standard exercise about a week before federal cash is set to expire, whether or not it looks like Congress is poised to stave off a funding lapse.
— Daniella Diaz, Jordain Carney and Caitlin Emma with help from Sarah Ferris and Jennifer Scholtes
GOOD EVENING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Thursday, Sept. 21, where we are hoping you’re having a better day today than the speaker of the House.
QUICK VIBE CHECK: “Next week, hang onto your hats,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) told Caitlin.
A SENATE SPENDING DEAL IS SLIPPING
Now back to the Senate, which is also having an underwhelming week on the appropriations front: Senators left the Capitol Thursday afternoon without making progress on a three-bill spending package — likely spelling doom for the nearly $280 billion measure, which appropriators hoped to pass, in part, as a message to fractious House Republicans to get their act together.
Hence Schumer’s pivot to a possible CR.
Remember: Moving the “minibus” would do nothing to thwart a shutdown early Sunday morning. And with Monday off for Yom Kippur and multiple time-consuming procedural hoops possibly necessary to pass anything, the upper chamber will have to pivot immediately to keep the government’s lights on, especially if House Republicans continue to flounder.
“We’re trying to give the House the opportunity to exercise its constitutional responsibility,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Thursday. “It’s not doing a real good job.”
Credit card bill barricade: Failing to reach an agreement would be a major disappointment to Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-Maine), who have earned bipartisan praise for trying to restore a timely and effective appropriations process.
Murray insisted Thursday that they’re still working hard to reach an agreement to move forward on the three-bill package. But one senator says he’s not budging.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) told us he is insisting on a vote for his legislation related to credit card swipe fees, which is cosponsored by Durbin (D-Ill.), as well as Sens. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio).
But senators are complaining that the bill is unwieldy, has nothing to do with the spending package, hasn’t been through committee hearings and has no shot at succeeding in the House. It’s “way too complicated a piece of legislation to be an amendment on a must-pass bill,” said Cramer, a member of the Banking Committee.
— Caitlin Emma and Ursula Perano
THREE CONFIRMED … HUNDREDS MORE TO GO
The Senate confirmed three generals this week following a monthslong standoff thanks to Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of more than 300 military nominations over Pentagon abortion policy.
Make no mistake: The blockade is far from over.
The three top generals who were confirmed this week — Joint Chiefs Chairman Charles Q. Brown, Marine Corps Commandant Eric M. Smith and Army Chief of Staff Randy A. George — moved only after Tuberville threatened to hijack the floor with a rare minority cloture petition.
That, Tuberville’s office made clear Thursday, won’t end the broader blockade.
“Coach Tuberville’s position has not changed: either the Pentagon can reverse its illegal policy or Chuck Schumer can bring these nominations to the floor individually,” said a statement from spokesperson Mallory Blount Jaspers.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a veteran who sits on the Armed Services committee, was visibly frustrated as the Senate departed for the weekend.
“It’s up to him,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth said in an interview. “And he’s not dropping the hold and none of the Republicans are forcing him to drop the hold and they’re not putting pressure on him.”
Duckworth added: “Yes, we were going to promote three people by the end of this week. Guess what? We opened up three more openings. We have to promote three other people to fill those positions. So we are nowhere more ahead than where we were at the beginning of the week.”
— Daniella Diaz
EXCLUSIVE: HISPANIC REPUBLICANS RAISE OVER $200K
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), co-chair of the Congressional Hispanic Conference, raised more than $200,000 at a Hispanic Leadership Trust fundraiser Wednesday evening with six members including David Valadeo (R-Calif.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.), Lori Chavez-Deremer (R-Ore.), Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas) and Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.). The HLT has distributed more than $175,000 in support to its dozen of members.
The big-ticket haul, notably, comes as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute — affiliated with Democrats — held its annual legislative conference, which wraps up tonight with a gala featuring remarks from Biden and a set from Tejano legend Bobby Pulido.
— Daniella Diaz
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) tells his daughter he thinks about the Roman Empire three (!) times a week.
House GOP erupts as McCarthy fails to move Pentagon bill, from Sarah Ferris and Jordain Carney
The week McCarthy threw it all at the wall — and nothing stuck, from Katherine Tully-McManus
TOMORROW IN CONGRESS
The House schedule is up in the air.
The Senate is out.
FRIDAY AROUND THE HILL
WEDNESDAY’S ANSWER: Jack Howard correctly answered that Lyndon B. Johnson, a former Senate majority leader, previously worked as a school teacher of mostly Mexican-American children.
TODAY’S QUESTION from Jack: Which former president’s niece seduced all three of his sons?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected].
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Follow Daniella on X at @DaniellaMicaela.