Anxieties among Senate Republicans rose Wednesday as Congress careens toward another government funding deadline with the House frozen by its speaker turmoil.
Congress has 44 days left to avert a shutdown, prompting warnings from GOP senators that their House Republican colleagues should waste little time agreeing on a successor to fill the void left by the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
“At some point, they’re going to have to get the Republicans on the same page over there to keep the government funded or to do anything consequential around here. They’re going to have to get Democrats,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate‘s second-ranking Republican. “Whoever is leading the House on the Republican side is going to have to figure out how to do basic things, including funding the government.”
Mr. McCarthy was stripped of his gavel by eight conservative hard-liners, in part because he ushered through a bipartisan stopgap spending bill to avert an Oct. 1 shutdown and did not achieve large enough spending cuts. All Democrats also voted against Mr. McCarthy.
The prospect of a prolonged state of limbo, or choosing a new House speaker who is less willing to play ball with Democrats, has Senate Republicans scrambling to take the reins on appropriations. The Senate needs a level of bipartisanship, with 60 votes required to pass legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, vowed to give Senate Democrats “plenty of cooperation from us in trying to achieve as close to a regular appropriations process as we possibly can.”
SEE ALSO: Schumer warns of ‘dangerous situation’ with looming government shutdown on Nov. 17
Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican, said the intraparty chaos that’s ground the House to a halt has diminished conservatives’ leverage for deeper spending cuts.
“They have now basically left only one choice, and that is consensus-driven appropriations bills [in the Senate] to be the base models for whatever is agreed to between the two parties and between the two houses,” Mr. Rounds told The Washington Times. “I think they have basically given away part of what could be their ability to leverage.”
Tension between the House and Senate is common, even among members of the same party. Senate GOP leadership prodded Mr. McCarthy for months prior to his ouster to align with them on a bipartisan stopgap spending agreement, an avenue the California Republican eventually took to avert a shutdown but that cost him his job.
Some of the Senate‘s most conservative members say the messiness of the speaker saga is all the more reason for the upper chamber to take the lead on any additional temporary spending or an annual budget.
“They gotta get somebody that can govern the country. Most Americans are not into political chaos,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told The Times. “It puts more pressure on us.”
Mr. Graham said he’ll work on a bipartisan government funding package with tradeoffs for both parties: beefing up southern border security and more military aid to Ukraine.
SEE ALSO: Biden says he’s worried Republican infighting could imperil Ukraine aid
Ukraine funding was already a major sticking point for hard-line conservatives, particularly in the House. Senate Republicans fear Mr. McCarthy‘s successor will be unable — or unwilling — to approve more assistance.
The House will remain in limbo without the ability to conduct legislative business or advance appropriations bills until Republicans can elect a new speaker. The chamber will not reconvene until next week.
The Senate leaves town Wednesday and will not return until the week of Oct. 16. Government funding lasts through Nov. 17.
Given a Democratic-led Senate and White House, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said the next speaker will undoubtedly need Democrats to pass any spending bills.
“Whoever the House elects as speaker will not be able to ignore the realities of divided government, no matter what the hard right demands,” the New York Democrat said. “The need for bipartisanship will not change.”