After another disappointing vote in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy told a group of reporters Friday that he had “nothing” in his pocket with about a day to avert a government shutdown.
The US federal government will shut down after 11:59 p.m. on Saturday if a spending measure cannot be reached by the deadline, and House Republicans appear further than ever from reaching a deal, with 21 GOP representatives joining to their Democratic colleagues in a vote Friday afternoon to overturn. a last-resort interim bill authored by McCarthy.
After the defeat, the speaker was followed by members of the media through the halls of Congress, according to a video posted by The Recount, with one reporter asking McCarthy what the “logical next step” was for the lower house.
“Keep working and make sure you fix this,” McCarthy responded.
Another reporter from the group responded to the question by saying, “But what are we working on? What’s in your back pocket, speaker?”
McCarthy, with a smile on his face, replied: “Nothing. I’m broke.”
Sources familiar with the closed-door meeting between McCarthy and Republicans after Friday’s failed vote said the speaker told members of his caucus that there were not many options left to avoid a closure, according to a CNN report.
The Senate is working to pass a bipartisan continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government through November 17, giving Congress a few more weeks to craft the 12 spending bills that will fund the government next year . But the most radical conservatives have already criticized the bill, which provides an additional $6.2 billion in aid to Ukraine.
The Republican-backed bill rejected Friday included tougher security policies along the southern border. Several House conservatives, including McCarthy, have made border security a top priority during negotiations over spending bills, but House Democrats are unlikely to pass bills including such measures .
McCarthy also faces pressure from far-right members of Congress who will likely dissuade him from trying to strike a deal with Democrats, with lawmakers like Rep. Matt Gaetz threatening to oust the president. In a letter released Thursday morning, more than two dozen members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus demanded answers from McCarthy about how he intended to advance spending measures in the coming days without relying on a CR.
Senate lawmakers went into recess Friday evening after the House’s provisional vote failed, with a procedural vote on the House’s short-term spending bill scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. Republican Senator Rand Paul, however, pledged to delay passage of the bill because of the additional aid to Ukraine.
The Biden administration has placed blame for the impending shutdown on far-right House Republicans, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters at a press briefing Friday that the President Joe Biden did not plan to meet with McCarthy in a last-ditch effort to negotiate.
“The people McCarthy needs to talk to are his own caucus,” Jean-Pierre added. “He needs to have a conversation with him, not the president.”
McCarthy, for his part, blamed the likely shutdown on Biden’s policies along the southern border.
News week contacted McCarthy’s office via email Friday evening.