On the brink of a federal government shutdown, Republican minority Speaker Kevin McCarthy dropped demands for steep spending cuts.
The new approach would leave behind aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of GOP lawmakers, but the plan would increase federal disaster assistance by $16 billion meeting President Joe Biden’s full request. The package was approved 335-91, with most Republicans and almost all Democrats supporting the bill.
With hours to go before the midnight deadline to fund the government, the Senate was also in for a rare weekend session and prepared to act next.
“We’re going to do our job,” McCarthy said before the House vote. “We’re going to be adults in the room. And we’re going to keep government open.”
With no deal in place before Sunday, federal workers will face furloughs, more than 2 million active-duty and reserve military troops will work without pay, and programmes and services that Americans rely on from coast to coast will begin to face shutdown disruptions.
The House measure would fund the government at current 2023 levels for 45 days, through Nov. 17, moving closer to the bipartisan approach in the Senate. But the Senate package would have added $6 billion for Ukraine to fight the war against Russia and $6 billion for U.S. disaster relief.
Both chambers came to a standstill as lawmakers assessed their options, some decrying the loss of Ukraine aid.
“The American people deserve better,” said House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, warning in a lengthy floor speech that “extreme” Republicans were risking shutdown.
For the House package to be approved, McCarthy, R-Calif., was forced to rely on Democrats because the speaker’s hard-right flank has said it will oppose any short-term measure, risking his job amid calls for his ouster. Republicans hold a 221-212 majority, with two vacancies.
After leaving his right-flank behind, McCarthy is almost certain to be facing a motion to try to be removed from office, though it is not at all certain there would be enough votes to topple the speaker. Most Republicans backed the package Saturday while fewer than half opposed it.
“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. “But I think this country is too important.”
The quick pivot comes after the collapse Friday of McCarthy’s earlier plan to pass a Republican-only bill with steep spending cuts up to 30% to most government agencies that the White House and Democrats rejected as too extreme.