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Challenges and Divisions: McCarthy’s Struggle to Unify House Republicans and Avoid Government Shutdown

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, along with his GOP leadership team, has been working to unite the House Republican Conference behind a plan to fund the government. The plan, brokered between the House Freedom Caucus and the more moderate Main Street Caucus, aims to provide temporary funding.[0] However, the proposed legislation faced immediate opposition from a group of far-right Republican lawmakers who wanted deeper spending cuts attached.[1]

This is not the first time that a small group of conservatives has caused problems for the Republican majority.[2] In January, a cadre of hard-right representatives attempted to block McCarthy from becoming Speaker, resulting in 15 ballots before he finally assumed the position.[2] In June, conservatives temporarily disrupted House operations due to their frustrations with a deal to raise the debt ceiling that McCarthy and President Joe Biden negotiated.[2]

If McCarthy and the authors of the plan can successfully unite Republicans behind the strategy, it would pave the way for a vote on the temporary funding proposal.[3] However, clashes between GOP hardliners and moderates have stalled efforts to pass funding measures in the House.[3]

Facing a budget crisis and the potential loss of control of the House, McCarthy may have to consider aligning with Democrats. They could provide the votes he needs, as 52 Democrats supported the debt ceiling bill earlier in the year.[4] While some may worry that the hard-liners would oust McCarthy as Speaker, McCarthy could potentially secure enough Democratic votes in exchange for budget favors to maintain his position.

McCarthy is a shrewd operator who wants to remain in power.[5] He could potentially secure the support of the 200 House Republicans who support a budget compromise, along with enough Democrats, to vote for him. However, moderate Republicans may be hesitant to risk McCarthy's job by voting for a bill that passes with Democratic support, as it could trigger a vote to unseat him.

Representative Matt Gaetz has been one of McCarthy's most vocal critics and has threatened to remove him from his speakership through a motion to vacate. However, McCarthy has challenged his detractors, daring them to try to oust him.[6] McCarthy knows that the threats to his speakership are likely empty, as no other reasonable Republican leader wants the challenging task of leading the GOP House.[0]

The divisions within the GOP are evident as hardliners, like Gaetz, accuse McCarthy of taking a weak stand in the spending fight.[7] Gaetz blames McCarthy and other Republican leaders for an Ethics Committee inquiry that threatened his political future.[7] Gaetz has threatened to introduce a motion to force McCarthy out of the speaker's chair if he pushes a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at current levels.

McCarthy's poor leadership and political cravenness have contributed to the dysfunction within the House. His inability to pass appropriations bills, including defense-spending legislation, has made a government shutdown increasingly likely.[8] A shutdown would have far-reaching effects, disrupting federal employees' jobs and paychecks, closing national parks, and potentially impacting the economy.[9]

Efforts to work out final spending bills that can pass both the House and Senate would be significantly delayed if a short-term stopgap spending bill is not approved before October 1. Even if a stopgap bill is approved by the House, it is viewed as unlikely to gain support in the Senate.

McCarthy's recent decision to initiate an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden was seen as an attempt to appease the far-right members of his caucus.[6] However, it did little to gain their support for the stop-gap funding bill.

In conclusion, McCarthy is facing a significant challenge in unifying House Republicans behind a plan to fund the government. His leadership is being threatened by hardliners in his own party, who have the potential to remove him from his speakership.[10] The divisions within the GOP, along with McCarthy's struggles to pass appropriations bills, have increased the likelihood of a government shutdown. McCarthy may need to consider aligning with Democrats to secure the votes he needs, but this could come at the cost of his own position. The coming weeks will be crucial in determining the future of House leadership and government funding.

0. “The Government Shutdown Is a Cartoonishly Bad—but Still Terrifying—Sequel” The Nation, 19 Sep. 2023,

1. “McCarthy privately outlines new GOP plan to avert shutdown, setting up clash with Senate” CNN, 21 Sep. 2023,

2. “Republicans Start to Devour Their Own Over Looming Shutdown” The New Republic, 20 Sep. 2023,

3. “McCarthy Demands 8% Spending Cut, Border Wall to Avert Shutdown” Yahoo Finance, 18 Sep. 2023,

4. “Hail Mary — How the Budget Mess Can Be Solved” AGF Perspectives, 20 Sep. 2023,

5. “Debt Ceiling Fight Begins, McCarthy Dares the House to Get Rid of Him – MishTalk” Mish Talk, 18 Sep. 2023,

6. “McCarthy Capitulates After House GOP Implodes Over Government Shutdown Mess” The Daily Beast, 19 Sep. 2023,

7. “Kevin McCarthy's shutdown plan tests his House control.” The Week, 19 Sep. 2023,

8. “And Just When You Thought Kevin McCarthy's House of Horrors Couldn't Get Scarier” Vanity Fair, 20 Sep. 2023,

9. “Why Hard-Right Republicans Could Force A Government Shutdown After Rejecting Fiscal Year 2024 Spending Proposal” Forbes, 18 Sep. 2023,

10. “The ‘five families’ threatening to shut down the US government” Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Sep. 2023,

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