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Pressure is ratcheting up in Washington as the clock ticks closer to a government shutdown deadline with no deal in sight.
House Republicans have been in the driver’s seat in crafting a way to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, but as the conference faces turmoil and internal divisions, other plans have emerged.
Here are the three main avenues lawmakers are exploring:
House GOP’s evolving plan
After a week of setbacks, negotiations are continuing within the House GOP conference to find a legislative plan to avert a shutdown. The latest strategy comes after two previous efforts to unite Republicans around a stopgap funding bill known as a continuing resolution (CR) failed.
Over the next week, Republicans will work to pass four of their 12 full-year government funding bills, then make another go at a short-term stopgap bill to prevent a shutdown.
Hard-line conservatives have forced leadership to punt on a CR and tanked a major Pentagon funding bill over their demands for lower overall spending levels than those in the annual appropriations bill crafted by GOP negotiators.
Some “never CR” Republicans are pushing Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other leaders to focus on passing full-year funding bills rather than a CR.
Some Republicans hope moving on the four full-year bills will help build trust between the conference’s hard-liners and the conference’s other factions, unifying the party behind a stopgap measure that would include immediate spending cuts as talks continue.
Other components that gave garnered support in the conference are changes to border policy, and a monthlong timeframe for the CR.
But the clock is ticking.
Taking up the full-year bills will take time, and there’s no guarantee the “never CR” hard-liners would go along with the plan. In the House GOP’s narrow majority, just a handful of members could sink any funding bill.
At the same time, anything the House GOP passes is almost certainly dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“We’re just going to work, put our heads down. Members have done that,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus who helped negotiate the party’s initial stopgap plan that struggled to fetch sufficient support from other hard-line conservatives.
“So, a lot of things are getting worked through even as we speak mechanically, tactically, technically to get it all accomplished,” he added.
McCarthy faces added pressure to hold the line from conservatives threatening a move known as motion to vacate the chair that would force a vote to potentially boot him out of the leadership role.
The moderates’ compromise
A coalition of more than 60 bipartisan House members last week endorsed a framework for a measure that would temporarily fund the government through January, along with a list of sweeteners designed to attract support on both sides.
The proposal calls for freezing funding at current levels through the end of the year, funding the White House’s request for Ukraine aid and disaster relief, a “border security solution with enforcement” and a fiscal commission to make recommendations to tackle the nation’s deficits, among other measures.
The proposal was met with immediate backlash from the GOP conference’s right flank.
“That’s switching teams in the middle of the game,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said of the push this week, calling the idea of some Republicans working with Democrats to get around the conservative roadblock “outrageous.”
But some moderate Republicans have already signaled openness to the plan if the prospects of a shutdown become gloomier.
Talking to reporters Tuesday, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said: “If there is not going to be a CR coming out of the House Republican caucus, then I will move forward with a discharge petition.”
A discharge petition is a procedural move that can allow lawmakers in the minority party to force a vote on legislation despite opposition from the Speaker.
Because it requires some members of the majority party — in this case that number would be five — to go against their own colleagues, it is rarely successful.
But, underscoring the stakes of the moment and the turmoil within the GOP conference, the chatter among moderate Republicans open to working with Democrats could get louder.
Senate takes the lead
The Senate moved this week to begin the process of teeing up a vote on a potential legislative vehicle for a stopgap funding bill.
While the House is usually first to move funding bills, the Senate took action Thursday on a previous bill passed by the House that is expected to be a possible vehicle for a stopgap measure.
“I have just filed cloture to move forward on FAA. As I have said for months, we must work in a bipartisan fashion to keep our government open, avoid a shutdown and avoid inflicting unnecessary pain on the American people. This action will give the Senate the option to do just that,” Schumer said Thursday.
There are members on both sides in the upper chamber who would support a CR that keeps funding at current levels temporarily to buy time for leaders to strike a bicameral deal for the coming fiscal year.
A vote is expected on the measure next week on the Senate side. But there’s no guarantee such a proposal would receive consideration in the House, where Republicans oppose continuing funding at levels last hashed out when Democrats held control of both chambers.
Senate Democrats are also pressing for disaster relief and aid for Ukraine to be attached to the measure, putting them on a collision course with the GOP-led House.