Senate returns amid looming government shutdown

September 5, 2023

Senate lawmakers were returning from August break Tuesday with a September 30 deadline to try to avoid a government shutdown amid demands from far-right House lawmakers—including impeaching President Biden.

The House of Representatives does not return until September 12, and it is set to meet over just 11 days between then and the end of the month. 

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has proposed a short-term stopgap measure to keep the government funded. However, with just a five-seat majority, McCarthy has very little wiggle room for negotiation within his own party, and he appears ready to give members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) an impeachment inquiry into President Biden that they’ve been demanding in return for their vote on the budget.

The budget deadline follows bumpy paths, to say the least, toward passing large financial legislative packages previously this year, including a raising of the debt ceiling and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to fund the military, in the face of protests, proposed social issues-based amendments, and “no” votes from members of the GOP’s conservative House Freedom Caucus. 

Further, McCarthy has been balking at the discretionary spending figures that he agreed to in the debt ceiling deal that was passed in both chambers along bipartisan lines. 

House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said a stopgap proposal “makes a good deal of sense”—though he added, “I just hope that House Republicans will realize that any funding solution has to be bipartisan or they’ll risk shutting down the government.”

The far-right House Freedom Caucus has released a list of demands, many of which will be non-starters in the Democratic-led Senate, such as building more wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, addressing what conservatives call the political “weaponization” of the Department of Justice and the FBI, and spending levels below what McCarthy and Biden agreed to when they raised the debt ceiling.

The Freedom Caucus currently has a little fewer than 50 members, making up roughly 22% of the entire GOP conference. The group has labeled its message as “No Security, No Funding,” with some members embracing the idea of a government shutdown to force lower non-defense spending, though many other Republicans disagree with that approach.

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