House Republicans reported major progress charting a path forward on a partisan bill to avert a government shutdown and a Department of Defense spending bill — two measures that suffered public setbacks just a day before — after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hashed out a new framework for a GOP-only stopgap proposal in a House Republican conference meeting that lasted more than two hours on Wednesday.
Republicans now plan to move forward on the Pentagon appropriations bill on Thursday after two of the five members who blocked the bill on Tuesday by voting against the rule — which allows consideration of the measure — said in the meeting that they changed their position.
And McCarthy got wide approval on a new framework for a stopgap funding measure called a continuing resolution (CR) after more than a dozen Republican members had rejected a proposal developed by leaders in the Main Street Caucus and House Freedom Caucus. Conservative opposition forced leaders to pull a planned rule vote on the continuing resolution on Tuesday.
It is not clear, however, whether Republicans have the votes to move forward on the latest plan.
The new CR plan discussed in Wednesday’s conference meeting, according to multiple members in the room, would extend funding until Oct. 31, with discretionary spending cuts for that duration of that due to a topline spending level of $1.471 trillion — the number from the House GOP’s “Limit, Save, Grow” partisan debt limit bill from earlier this year that was consistent with fiscal year 2022 levels. That is in line with a suggested change from Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), chair of the Republican Study Committee.
The CR would also include the bulk of House Republicans’ H.R. 2 border crackdown bill – minus its provisions on E-Verify – and create a commission on the national debt to examine both mandatory and discretionary spending.
In addition to that, Republicans would have a commitment from the Speaker to mark up the rest of thee regular fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills at a topline level of $1.526 trillion.
“We’re very close there,” McCarthy told reporters when asked about the proposal following the meeting. “I feel I just got a little more movement to go there.”
Even if the CR passes the House it is expected to be widely rejected and drastically changed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Republicans who support it argue that passing the bill gives them the most leverage possible before negotiating with the upper chamber.
Conservative Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who were not in favor of the previous proposal unveiled on Sunday, said they could support the new framework.
Norman said a key factor that pushed him to accept the new plan was the threat of moderate Republicans working with Democrats to force a vote on an alternative plan that would be far less conservative.
Members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus are working on an alternative agreement.
“I wasn’t willing to turn it over to them,” Norman said.
The Speaker, however, is not out of the woods: three conservative Republicans emerged from Wednesday’s meeting telling reporters they are not on board with the new proposal.
“I’m still a no,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told reporters following the meeting.
“I don’t think it’s the proper way to fund government. I think we need to pass a budget and do it right like we’re supposed to,” he added.
Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), who previously said he would never support a CR, said his stance has not changed.
“I’m a never CR,” he told reporters.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has threatened to force a vote on ousting McCarthy, echoed that sentiment.
“I’m not voting for a CR,” Gaetz said following the meeting.
In the House Republicans’ narrow majority, just a handful of “no” votes could block the proposal, depending on attendance.
Gaetz told members during the closed-door meeting that he thinks there are about seven people who will never vote for a CR, a source in the room told The Hill. But after the meeting, he said he “miscounted” and that “there are a couple more.”
“More than seven,” he responded when asked how many.
In a bright spot for Republicans, however, McCarthy said the House will move ahead with the Pentagon appropriations bill on Thursday after two conservatives who helped sink the rule for the legislation the day before flipped their stance.
“We’ll come in tomorrow, we will move the rule on the DoD approps bill and start on all the approps and start moving forward with the DoD approps,” McCarthy told reporters following the meeting.
A band of five hardline Republicans broke from convention and voted against the rule for the funding measure on Tuesday, which was enough to tank the effort. The final vote was 212-214, blocking the legislation from moving forward to debate and a final vote.
The hardliners said they opposed the procedural vote because they had not yet received the topline numbers across all 12 appropriations bills, which they have been requesting for months. They were also frustrated that the House has not advanced more individual appropriations bills.
But emerging from Wednesday’s closed-door meeting, two of those conservative defectors — Norman and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) — said they would vote for the rule.
Norman said he would support the procedural vote because there was a “strong commitment” from leaders that the conference would work to move the 11 remaining appropriations bills.
Buck confirmed that he would support the rule but would not say if he plans to vote for the bill on final passage.
Commitment to vote for the rule is a small — yet significant — victory for McCarthy, who has struggled to move that legislation amid conservative demands and opposition.
The House was initially scheduled to vote on the rule for the appropriations bill last week, but leadership scrapped those plans after hardliners said they planned to oppose the effort. Then on Tuesday, the rescheduled vote failed.
“I think we made tremendous progress as an entire conference, we had a great discussion,” McCarthy told reporters after the meeting. “I think we’ve got a plan to move forward, going to DoD and then going to a number of other appropriation bills.”