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Congress avoids a government shutdown with a short-term spending measure

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

With only hours to spare, Congress averted a government shutdown.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah, a deal came together after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy backtracked and decided to work with Democrats to pass a short-term spending measure on Saturday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: We're going to be adults in the room. And we're going to keep government open while we solve this problem.

MARTÍNEZ: But in choosing bipartisanship, McCarthy also put his job at risk. Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz says he plans to introduce a resolution to remove McCarthy as speaker as early as this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATT GAETZ: I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy.

FADEL: NPR political correspondent Susan Davis joins us now to discuss all this. Hi, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. OK, before we get to the drama surrounding McCarthy's job, could you spell out exactly what Congress agreed to this weekend?

DAVIS: Sure. They passed a stopgap spending measure that basically keeps the government on autopilot until November 17. There was one add-on provision that includes $16 billion in disaster relief aid to assist with things like recovery from the Hawaii fires. Notably, Leila, what it did not include was any aid for Ukraine despite very strong lobbying from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and, obviously, President Biden. The president already said publicly he believes that he has a deal with the speaker to move something separate on Ukraine. But just yesterday on CBS, the speaker said that while he might support money for Ukraine, he wanted it tied to some kind of legislation to secure the border. So it's going to be a complicated negotiation.

FADEL: OK. And as you point out, November 17, it expires. Is Congress going to be right back at a shutdown standoff?

DAVIS: Yeah, I mean, almost certainly. I mean, the thing that's important to remember here is stopgaps are easy. The underlying 12 annual spending bills, none of them have been passed by Congress yet. The House and Senate are on completely different pages. If you recall, the speaker walked away from the budget deal that he cut with the president that was signed into law in early June. And the House has been passing bills with very steep cuts to domestic spending that, you know, has no chance of survival in the Senate, would never be signed by the president.

So how the two chambers reconcile this? I can't answer for you, and neither can anyone on Capitol Hill right now, not just in terms of the spending levels, but Republicans have also put into their bills a number of provisions that they say would remove the, quote-unquote, "woke" from the government. That will also be, you know, not going to see the light of day in the Senate. So they have about a month and a half to try to reconcile some of this, but the chances that they're all resolved and they're ready to roll in November seems highly unlikely.

FADEL: And then in the meantime, McCarthy, because he worked on this deal with the Democrats, is facing a possible removal from his speakership. I mean, how realistic is it that he loses his job?

DAVIS: You know, remember, he wouldn't be in this position if he hadn't negotiated himself into this position, again, back in January. He had to agree to make it easier to remove the speaker to get the votes he needed from the far right to become speaker. Now it could be used against him. I would say most Republicans still support Kevin McCarthy. They still want him to be speaker. But the political irony here is it now puts a lot of power in Democrats' hands. If all Democrats voted in mass with just, say, five or a few more Republicans, they could remove him from the job.

I talked to Democrats all last week about this. They're very wary of adding to the chaos on Capitol Hill, but they don't really hold much regard for the speaker, especially as he has started moving forward with an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden. And the big question is, if McCarthy needs Democrats to remain speaker, what do they want in return? And again, that's going to be a very - another very complicated negotiation for the speaker to figure out and maybe as soon as this week.

FADEL: NPR's political correspondent Susan Davis. I'm sure we'll be speaking to you again soon.

DAVIS: You bet. 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.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.

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