With assists from POLITICO’s Congress team
TICK TOCK: The government will shut down in 12 days if Congress can’t pass a funding patch.
And Speaker Kevin McCarthy left the Capitol before 5 p.m. Tuesday after a very unhappy hour, with his House GOP failing to open debate on the defense spending bill.
It was the second stumble in a day for Republican leaders who are struggling mightily to find the votes to pass their short-term funding plan – one they had hoped to tout as a consensus pact between conservatives and more centrist members.
But the purported deal still has at least a dozen no votes. Which brings us to the question of the day: How many of those no votes are actually flippable for GOP leadership?
The defense spending vote gives us some important clues to that. So it’s time for a breakdown of the House GOP holdouts, who fall into three broad categories.
- The Maybe-Gettables: Certain House Republicans have either a record of relenting when arm-twisted or a disinclination to stay on the bad side of their leaders. This doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to give in and ultimately back the deal – just that they may be persuadable. Think Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), a public critic of the spending deal who tangled with McCarthy this week but ultimately voted yes on the defense bill. And Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas), who’s also currently a no on the spending deal but delivered the speaker a crucial vote during January’s brutal race for the gavel.
- The Wild Cards: Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), both of whom voted to tank the defense bill on Tuesday, fall into this camp. Norman is a member of the Rules Committee, which makes his support something of a bellwether if McCarthy has any hopes of resuscitating the spending deal. Which the speaker made clear he wants to do before he left the building on Tuesday with possible plans to return. Also in this camp – Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a frequent ally of McCarthy who looks far less movable on a short-term spending deal.
- The Never-Kevins: Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) Eli Crane (R-Texas) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) all voted “present” rather than support McCarthy for speaker back in January. And all are, perhaps predictably, now withholding their support for the spending deal. Gaetz and Crane voted for the defense bill rule (they both have strong military ties), while Biggs and Rosendale voted against it – but they’re all still in the hardest group of conservatives for GOP leaders to convert.Add Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) to this list, too, even though he ultimately came around to McCarthy’s side during the speakership race. He later became the first conservative to openly talk about forcing a vote to oust the speaker.
The majority of House Republicans are only getting angrier as the holdouts dig in.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a top appropriator, lamented that “we’re being dragged around by five people, when 200 of us are in agreement.” (It’s more like 10-12 people doing the dragging right now, but we take his point.)
Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) suggested that McCarthy try again to force passage of the defense spending bill on Wednesday, throwing the House into full Groundhog Day mode.
“You’re going to threaten us? Ok, here, go ahead and vote again,” Cole said.
Cole also suggested the speaker try to open debate on the stopgap spending bill, too – even though it is very much short of the votes to pass: “Just put your fingerprints on it and own it. I think the speaker is doing everything he can to give everybody as many opportunities as possible to do the right thing.”
Now let’s hear from an optimist: The chief of the GOP’s more centrist Main Street Caucus, a lead negotiator of the flailing spending deal, is still trying to keep it positive.
“People are still at the table. They’re talking and they’re listening. I get nervous when people pull away,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) said in an interview.
But let’s get real: Until McCarthy breaks through with one or more of the holdout camps on the current proposed deal or seeks an agreement with Democrats, the House is in limbo. And even if the speaker can secure passage of the short-term plan hashed out by Main Street and Freedom Caucus members, it’s dead on arrival in the Democratic Senate.
What to expect there on Wednesday: We could see a Senate vote on breaking through conservative opposition to the three-part spending bill that had slowed to a crawl in recent days.
— Daniella Diaz, with help from Sarah Ferris, Jordain Carney, Jennifer Scholtes and Olivia Beavers
GOOD EVENING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Tuesday, Sept. 19, where at least the weather outside is really nice!
STATUS CHECK: WHAT’S BEHIND THE GOP FISCAL CHAOS
While McCarthy tries to corral the votes for that deal, the GOP’s spending mess is coming down to — surprise! — a months-old fight about how much to spend next fiscal year.
Multiple Republican hardliners have made clear they won’t advance any stopgap plan — even sweetened with spending cuts and border policies — before getting a commitment on those topline spending levels. Many of them want to see cuts at least as steep as those in the GOP-only springtime debt bill that passed before McCarthy struck a later, bipartisan deal, plus more demands.
Some have suggested chopping McCarthy’s current stopgap proposal down to those levels. (The current Main Street-Freedom Caucus plan includes cuts of roughly 8 percent to most federal agencies besides the Pentagon, veterans affairs and disaster funding.)
As Johnson of the Main Street Caucus put it: “This is a battle. I think people are rightfully asking questions about the war.”
But, but, but: Several members, including hardliner Bishop and centrist Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), said Tuesday that there is no agreement on the topline yet. Bishop acknowledged that some fellow Republicans won’t support the cuts he wants.
— Jordain Carney, Jennifer Scholtes and Sarah Ferris
SCOOP: SENATE REPUBLICANS REBEL AGAINST RELAXED DRESS CODE
Lest you thought you’d heard the last of the newly dress code-free Senate, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is leading a new letter among fellow Republicans that objects to the Sergeant at Arms’ decision to no longer enforce rules for attire in the chamber.
“Allowing casual clothing on the Senate floor disrespects the institution we serve and the American families we represent,” reads the letter, signed by 46 Republicans so far.
GOP senators didn’t mince words Tuesday when talking about their upset over the changes.
“It shows a lack of respect for the institution and for each other,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said.
“It stinks. You’ve got to depend on the majority leader or the leaders generally to uphold the traditional form of the Senate,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said.
Asked if there was room to make the dress code more casual without ditching it altogether, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) replied: “What do you think judges should wear? Shorts and t-shirts when they’re sitting on the stand?”
“No, because we want to show respect for the institution of the judiciary,” Romney added. “Likewise, this is the government of the United States of America.”
Reality check: Republicans from Ted Cruz to Thom Tillis have occasionally voted in non-traditional Senate garb over the years, usually casting their votes from the cloakrooms.
While Democrats have played it cooler in their response to the dress code change, not everybody is on board.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) Tuesday said he spoke to Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) directly about the dress code change. Though Democratic leadership hasn’t explicitly linked the change to the caucus’ most casual dresser, the hoodie-friendly Fetterman has embraced it.
Manchin recalled telling Fetterman: “‘John, I think it’s wrong, and there’s no way I can comply with that whatsoever. And I think it basically degrades the institution.”
“I just wanted to tell him directly that I totally oppose it and I will do everything I can to try to hold the decorum of the Senate,” Manchin added.
Fetterman (who we have reported is a Manchin fan) said he doesn’t take the pushback personally.
“He just wanted to acknowledge that it wasn’t like a personal issue or anything like that. And of course, I said, ‘Absolutely. I get it,’,” Fetterman said.
– Ursula Perano and Burgess Everett
ANOTHER SCOOP: LEFT SEEKS SCOTUS SUBPOENAS
The progressive group Indivisible, along with 45 other national organizations, is calling on the Senate to subpoena Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and their GOP benefactors – such as donor Harlan Crowe and party activist Leonard Leo.
The groups’ letter, obtained by Huddle, is addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Progressives hope their push will draw new attention to the requests for information that the Judiciary Committee has already issued seeking details about financial and social connections between the justices, Crowe and Leo.
“The justices at the center of these controversies and their billionaire friends have so far avoided true Congressional accountability. We have no doubt that if any other government official took similar actions to Thomas and Alito, the Senate would have acted,” the groups write.
They add that the Senate has “no choice left now” but to issue subpoenas and launch a “full-scale investigation” by the panel into what they call “the ethical crisis engulfing the Supreme Court.”
— Katherine Tully-McManus
Senators … they’re just like us!
Bill Nye was on Capitol Hill.
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Et tu, Sen. Bill Cassidy? He joined the Holy Roman Empire trend on TikTok, but doesn’t think much of it.
Shutdown threatens Ukraine training, weapons deliveries, from Lara Seligman
The Congressional Pickleball Caucus welcomed pros to Dirksen for some early morning action, from Katherine Tully-McManus
Capitol Hill Staffers Fret About Missing Paychecks in a Shutdown, from Maeve Sheehey at Bloomberg Government
TOMORROW IN CONGRESS
The House is in session.
The Senate is in session.
WEDNESDAY AROUND THE HILL
9:30 a.m. Victims of the U.S. Embassy bombings in Beirut will gather at the United States Capitol for a press conference to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the attacks and call for justice. (Capitol Lawn on Northeast Drive (across Constitution Ave NW from Russell Senate Office Building)
9:30 a.m. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) will hold a press conference on the Kigali Amendment. (Senate Swamp)
11 a.m. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) will host a press conference on how child care funding affects union workers.
12 p.m. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) will hold a press conference on mask mandates. (Senate Studio)
12 p.m. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) will have a press conference to call for a House vote on Iraq AUMF repeal. (House Triangle)
12:30 p.m. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) will hold a press conference on nuclear contamination (Senate Swamp)
1:30 p.m Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) will hold a press conference on border security. (Senate Studio)
3 p.m. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) will hold a press conference on the Credit Card Competition Act. (Senate Studio)
4 p.m. Sen. Ed Marky (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will hold a press conference on the Civilian Climate Corps. I’m (Senate Swamp)
4 p.m. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), with the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force, will celebrate Recovery Month. (House Triangle)
4 p.m. Procter & Gamble will be hosting its third annual Delivering Relief event to come pack disaster relief kits with household items that will be sent to hundreds of families to help them as they recover following a natural disaster.
MONDAY’S ANSWER: Bruce Mehlman correctly guessed that Rep. Maxwell Frost performed as part of a salsa band in a presidential inaugural parade.
TODAY’S QUESTION from Bruce: When was the last time partisan control of the House flipped in a Presidential election year?
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.