By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will try to restart his stalled Republican spending agenda on Thursday, with a procedural vote on a fiscal 2024 defense appropriations bill that Republicans have already twice failed to advance.
A vote to open debate on the $886 billion measure is expected in the House of Representatives, a day after McCarthy’s fractious majority met in a 2-1/2-hour closed-door meeting aimed at finding common ground on legislation to avert a government shutdown in barely a week and half.
“We’re going to be voting,” McCarthy told reporters late on Wednesday. “I think we’ve got a plan to move forward.”
McCarthy said Republicans were also “very close” on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR, and predicted that he would be able to advance other longer-term spending legislation.
To avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1, the House and the Democratic-led Senate must agree on short- or long-term spending legislation that Democratic President Joe Biden can then sign into law. But the partisan measures that Republicans hope to begin passing soon face stiff opposition from Democrats in the Senate and from the White House.
The Republican spending agenda had run afoul of a small group of Republican hardline conservatives, who wanted assurances that fiscal 2024 appropriations will not exceed a 2022 top line of $1.47 trillion – $120 billion less than McCarthy and Biden agreed to in May.
On Tuesday McCarthy had to pull a procedural vote on a proposed 30-day CR. Then a vote to open floor debate on the defense appropriations bill failed. The defense bill had already been delayed earlier in the month.
The Republican stalemate raised concerns about the ability of Congress to keep federal agencies afloat when current funding expires on Sept. 30.
But McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday that he had been able to win support from two of the five hardliners who had joined Democrats to oppose the defense appropriations bill on Tuesday. With a narrow 221-212 majority, McCarthy can afford to lose no more than four votes on measures opposed by Democrats.
The two hardliners appear to have changed their positions after McCarthy proposed a 30-day CR that would cut spending to the 2022 level, according to two sources familiar with the discussion. The CR would include a commission to tackle the federal debt and conservative restrictions on immigration and the border.
McCarthy’s proposal would also set a top line for full-year fiscal 2024 spending at just under $1.53 trillion, the sources said.
It was not clear how much support the CR or the 2024 top line would draw from House Republicans.
But McCarthy sounded an optimistic note on the CR.
“We’re very close,” he said. “I feel like I’ve just got a little more movement to go there.”
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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