Major doubts cloud the House GOP’s supposed ‘breakthrough’

The truth is, we’re just at the start of what’s going to be a very long, ugly, drawn-out war — a fact that longtime appropriator (and realist) Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) hinted at when he left the meeting last night.

“We all get wrapped around the axle about what we’re doing right now, but … eventually the Senate is going to get an opportunity to weigh in, and they’re going to send something back to us, and it’s going to look a lot different,” Womack told us. “Then we’ll have another bigger decision to make — and that’s when the most emotional, strategic vote will have to take place.”

Adding to McCarthy’s complications is that former President Donald Trump appeared to come out in opposition to the new CR plan late last night. In a social media post, he pushed for Republicans to “defund all aspects of Crooked Joe Biden’s weaponized Government,” calling the Oct. 1 funding deadline the “last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots.”

Meanwhile, centrist Republicans like Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) blasted the GOP conference for living in La La Land. As POLITICO reported Wednesday night, the Texas Republican is a no on the CR because “none of these ideas have any chance of being taken up in the Senate and signed into law.”

That said, two of the five hardliners who blocked the Defense bill earlier this week changed their tune in last night’s meeting, meaning that Republicans should have the votes to clear the legislation’s rule as soon as today and take up the Pentagon funding bill that should have easily passed their chamber months ago.

And there are also positive signs for the new CR that was hashed out in the meeting. While Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) argued that at least seven House Republicans would never vote for a continuing resolution — a number that fellow “no” vote Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) later echoed on CNN — Gaetz was rebuked by Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who admonished him for speaking on others’ behalf. Good, a conservative and previously a holdout on the CR, indicated that the new deal floated by leadership would move him to yes.

So what are the new terms of this deal McCarthy ironed out in real time in front of his members to unstick the spending snag? Once again, moderates who didn’t want to gut spending further got rolled.

Republican leaders agreed to a CR that includes steeper cuts, as demanded by conservatives, and would fund the government at $1.471 trillion. In addition to the border crackdown measures already included, a new sweetener was added: a commission that will look at cutting spending and reducing the debt in the future. Overall, the new topline number for long term House appropriations bills was $1.526 trillion — or $64 billion less than the topline McCarthy agreed to in the debt ceiling deal with Biden.

The problem for McCarthy is that it is unclear if Republicans can pass their newly floated CR plan, especially if Trump’s late night screed rallies conservatives who want to defund the Justice Department. That proposition, of course, is a total nonstarter for many centrist House Republicans who are already squeamish about spending cuts. And yet MAGA-minded lawmakers are already using Trump’s battle cry to push for more, including Gaetz, who blasted out Trump’s message on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and added, “Hold the line.”

There was also no discussion about the elephant in the room, which is that none of this is ever going to pass muster with Democrats. Some conservatives, in fact, left the room with the impression that McCarthy is going to fight for the Republican CR and win some sort of concessions.

Case in point: We caught up with Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who opposed the previous draft. While she didn’t commit to voting yes on the new version, she seemed at least open to it — though also had a warning for McCarthy.

“If he is not willing to fight — fight and win — then he is going to fail Republicans,” Spartz told POLITICO’s Playbook. “He is going to be tested one more time. From my perspective, he’s already failed us twice. The third time, I’m done. … I judge people not on what they say, but the results. We need to win something.”

But conservatives like Spartz are in for a rude awakening. While McCarthy was able to leverage GOP unity to extract concessions from Democrats in the debt ceiling negotiations, when it comes to government shutdowns, the side making the policy demands rarely notches any victories.

What’s more, Senate Republicans — and even some Republicans in House leadership — privately acknowledge that eventually, McCarthy is going to have to revert to the topline numbers he originally hashed out with White House last spring.

And when he does, the ugly mood in the House will return — and probably get even worse.

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