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McCarthy Shuts Down Shutdown Talk

McCarthy said the government would not shut down. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
McCarthy said the government would not shut down. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Heading into a tense negotiation period, the GOP’s floor leader is taking away one of the party’s most frequently used weapons, the threat of a government shutdown.  

Congress faces a Dec. 11 deadline to pass an omnibus government spending package to avert a shutdown. In a Monday pen-and-pad briefing, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., not only dismissed the possibility of a shutdown — he gave his troops some extra time if lawmakers can’t meet their deadline.  

“I’m hopeful that we’ll get it voted on by the 11th. If not, we’re here until the 18th,” McCarthy said. “We’ll get it done.”  

If there is no action by Dec. 11, Congress could pass a weeklong continuing resolution to keep the government running. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would be open to signing a short-term CR so lawmakers can complete the omnibus.  

“Our first principle is to get the very best and most conservative bill we can,” McCarthy said. He later added, “I’m very hopeful that when that bill comes up, we’re going to get big support from the Republican side.”  

After McCarthy’s comments, a Senate Appropriations aide told CQ Roll Call the negotiators were still aiming to have the omnibus ready for enactment by Dec. 11.  

Over the next two weeks, appropriators will work to come to agreements on the spending package, with policy riders from both sides of the aisle potentially threatening progress.  

McCarthy did not rule in or out the possibility of a rider to defund Planned Parenthood, but again dismissed the idea of a shutdown .  

“I hear a lot of things on the omni on a lot of different aspects,” McCarthy said when asked what members were saying about a rider that would defund the group. “I do not hear people shutting the government down.”  

GOP leaders have been laying the groundwork to ensure strong Republican support for the spending package. Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., held “listening sessions” earlier this month for members to voice their concerns and ideas regarding appropriations bills that have not yet been voted on.  

On Sunday night, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., sent a memo to his whip team saying they must make sure Republicans will take votes on tough bills.  

“My point is simple: If there are 150 Republicans who hope the bill passes, then there should be 150 Republicans who vote yes on final passage,” Scalise wrote.  

McCarthy dismissed the notion of attaching language to the spending package that addressed Syrian refugees simply to drum up GOP support. On Nov. 19, the House passed a bill to bolster the vetting process for Syrian refugees  looking to come to the U.S. that the White House threatened to veto.  

“I don’t look at the refugee issue as something to get votes for the omnibus,” McCarthy said. “I look at it as safety for our country.”  

“I think that bill needs to pass and become law, whichever way it can,” McCarthy added.  

Niels Lesniewski, John Bennett, and Emma Dumain contributed to this report.