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The government shutdown is likely to begin at midnight on Saturday


Federal agencies are on track to shut down at midnight. Congress has failed to approve a short-term funding bill to keep the lights on. A group of hard-liners defeated Speaker Kevin McCarthy's plan to fund agencies for a month and add border security. But now the speaker's decided to move a bill that he wants to pass with Democrats.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: We will put a clean funding stopgap on the floor to keep government open for 45 days for the House and Senate to get their work done.

SIMON: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us. Deirdre, thanks for being with us.


SIMON: Could this new plan avoid a shutdown?

WALSH: It could, but as you noted, it's going to need bipartisan support. Speaker McCarthy is moving quickly today. He's going to use House rules that require the bill be approved by two-thirds of everyone voting in the House today. We already know a lot of conservatives don't want to vote for this bill. We're waiting to see how Democrats respond. This bill does use current funding levels and the disaster money that the White House asked for, but it doesn't include money for Ukraine. But it's also a big reversal for the speaker to reach out and try to pass something with Democrats. Up until now, he's only been focusing on proposals that would pass with Republican votes. This morning, he appealed for bipartisan support.


MCCARTHY: But what I am asking - Republicans and Democrats alike, put your partisanship away. Focus on the American public.

SIMON: What about the Senate's plans?

WALSH: For now, the Senate still has a procedural vote this afternoon to advance their bipartisan bill. It also funds the government through mid-November. It also - it provides disaster aid, $5 billion, and $6 billion for Ukraine. But if the House passes something first, it could really change the dynamics on Capitol Hill. And Congress sometimes can work quickly when they're bumping up to a shutdown deadline, and they have to make a quick decision to try to head off a shutdown. Because this money - because the House bill doesn't include the money for Ukraine, that was a sticking point for some Senate Republicans, so it could potentially speed things up there. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been very focused on keeping the funding for Ukraine as part of this debate. So we'll see what they do and see what the pressure builds on them if the House can pass this.

SIMON: Speaker McCarthy hasn't been willing to work with House Democrats since raising the debt ceiling at the beginning of June. Help us understand how he reached, apparently, a change of conclusion.

WALSH: Yeah, I mean, it is a major change for him. I mean, hanging over his head is this threat from a group of far-right conservatives that if he ever cuts a deal, they will move to oust him. Now he is asking for Democrats for votes. He only has a four-seat majority in the House. This morning, he was specifically asked about this threat, and he said he's fine with any challenge.


MCCARTHY: You know what? If somebody wants to remove because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try.

WALSH: There's a good chance that a House Republican will go to the floor, potentially soon, to try to move for a vote to remove the speaker. Under House rules, only one member is needed to do this. McCarthy agreed to those rules when he was elected speaker back in January.

SIMON: Any sign President Biden is getting involved, working the phones, anything?

WALSH: No, not right now. I mean, the White House budget director, Shalanda Young, made it clear that the negotiations setting the spending levels for the government already happened. The speaker agreed to those levels in the debt deal that passed earlier this summer. The reason we're in this problem right now is that McCarthy initially walked away from that deal. This is what Young said about House Republicans.


SHALANDA YOUNG: This is not an exercise in reopening negotiations. We negotiated at the speaker's request three months ago.

SIMON: Deirdre, Ukraine is a major issue for Democrats and a number of Senate Republicans. How do they contend with a bill that might come at the expense of aid for Ukraine?

WALSH: I think it's going to be a tough choice. But they're also facing this deadline that the government will shut down. I mean, there is continuing funding for government programs that support assistance, like those in the State Department. So they may decide that they are OK with moving ahead with this bill for now. But Ukraine money is going to continue to be a fight, even if they fund this - if this bill can pass, for 45 days, we're still going to have that fight this fall.

SIMON: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks so much for being with us.

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.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.