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A proposed spending bill for the Pentagon is a point of contention for the GOP


House Republicans started the week with a plan to vote on their own spending bill to show the Senate they could pass something and force negotiations to take place over government funding.


But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy spent much of the week battling a handful of hard-line members who were blocking their own party from even debating spending bills. McCarthy, though, downplayed the rift.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: This is a good lesson for America. Why would we quit? Why would we give up? We've got plenty of time here. We're making good progress.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh is following this. Deirdre, we're just days away from a deadline to fund the government by the end of the month. Is there any plan at all to avoid a shutdown?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: No. House Republicans met last night to try to get on the same page about how much money overall the federal government should be spending, a really basic question. That was actually decided already in the debt ceiling deal that the speaker and President Biden hammered out back in May. And the Senate is using that overall spending level to craft their bills.

But those hard-line conservatives that you mentioned, they want steeper cuts, and they've been blocking the speaker from even bringing up a bill that's usually the easiest for Republicans to pass - the one that funds the Pentagon. The speaker's giving in to those demands, and last night, he says he has the votes to bring up the defense bill, so the House is planning to do that today. They're also expected to work over the weekend to try to unite Republicans around a short-term spending bill to give them more time to finish the rest of the annual spending bills.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So even if they can't agree on the long-term spending plan, why can't they agree to keep the government open while they debate?

WALSH: There's still this group of five to seven House Republicans who just say they oppose any CR, or continuing resolution, to keep the government open. I spoke with Florida Republican Cory Mills. He wants the speaker to follow through on his pledge to pass all of the spending bills. He wants to see how House Republicans are actually cutting programs that they've vowed to shrink. He says he's a no on any stopgap bill.

CORY MILLS: Until someone's willing to actually make a stand and say, hey, look; I'm not going to continue to support this type of behavior...

WALSH: Right. So...

MILLS: ...Or this reckless and irresponsible spending, or I'm going to hold leadership accountable on the fact that we didn't get the bills out, then it's going to continue.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. The House, in theory, though, could pass a short-term spending bill that would get support from majority Republicans and probably a lot of Democrats. So why isn't that happening?

WALSH: Because McCarthy knows he would put his own job as speaker at risk if he cuts a deal with Democrats. He only has a four-seat majority. And some of his GOP critics are threatening to bring up a vote to oust him if he works with Democrats. Right now, House Republicans are talking about passing a one-month spending bill that attaches border security provisions to it, creates a bipartisan commission to look at the national debt. But it's unclear they even have the votes to get that through. The other headache for McCarthy is that former President Trump came out against that plan last night.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So if they could pass that, is that something that can get through the Senate?

WALSH: No. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made it clear that the partisan border security provisions on that and other things are just nonstarters. The goal that the speaker and House Republicans have now is to show they can pass something. They've just spent the last week or so at war with themselves. There are some talks happening with a group of House Republicans and Democrats who believe the speaker ultimately will have to cut a deal. They want disaster money, money for Ukraine. But right now, the speaker is just trying to keep Republicans together. That just increases the odds of a shutdown since any deal in divided government needs Democrats.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks a lot.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.