Kevin McCarthy’s Catch-22 on the shut

If, instead, McCarthy passes a bipartisan continuing resolution to keep the government open, it likely imperils his speakership by decisively turning the House’s hardline conservatives against him. A motion to vacate is inevitable.

Over the weekend, McCarthy rolled out his latest bid to pivot away from an embarrassing stretch where members of his own party left plan after plan in tatters, taking down two procedural votes and otherwise making a mockery of his ability to lead the House GOP.

The new plan is to package several full-year appropriations bills together and try to get them moving in the House, bowing to the wishes of Gaetz and other hardliners.

On its face, it’s a strategy to nowhere.

There’s no guarantee McCarthy will be able to muster the votes to move forward — in fact, you’d have to bet against it, particularly after a top ally, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), announced yesterday that she remains a “hard no.”

And even if Republicans move forward with the full-year bills, that does nothing to avert a government shutdown next weekend. Gaetz and a handful of like-minded hardliners insist that they won’t vote for any continuing resolution to keep the government open temporarily — even one that reportedly includes a 27% cut to non-defense spending.

McCarthy, meanwhile, has shown no sign he’s ready to move forward with a CR that could pass with Democratic votes, lest the hard-right rebellion turn into an outright mutiny.

So what exactly is McCarthy doing here? The conventional wisdom among Republicans we’ve spoken to is that he’s hoping to build enough goodwill with MAGA-minded members that they’ll eventually agree to pass a conservative-leaning CR before a shutdown.

Of course, even McCarthy’s closest allies know that banking on Gaetz & Co. to suddenly embrace a stopgap is a risky proposition — and that was before former President Donald Trump went on Truth Social last night to buck up the GOP: “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN!”

What the latest play will do, however, is continue to drive a wedge into the hard-right bloc itself.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus who negotiated a potential Republican CR last week have started voicing real irritation with their colleagues, like Gaetz, who immediately dismissed it.

“I honestly don’t know what to say to my fellow Republicans other than you’re gonna eat a shit sandwich, and you probably deserve to eat it,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told Fox News last week — notably shifting his ire away from McCarthy and toward his fellow hardliners.

A split on the right could be McCarthy’s best hope of surviving what most House Republicans now believe is a foregone conclusion: a vote on McCarthy’s ouster as speaker. Giving conservatives even more concessions, the thinking goes, will allow him to make the case to his members that the rebels are simply implacable — and unmanageable for any speaker.

And therein is the Catch-22: Progress this week could actually be worse for McCarthy on that score.

“The worst thing that could happen for Kevin is them passing something,” said Brendan Buck, a veteran of hard-right rebellions as a senior aide to then-Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner.

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