House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pulled a procedural vote on the short-term spending measure on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pulled a procedural vote on the short-term spending measure on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) postponed a key procedural vote Tuesday on a measure aimed at averting a government shutdown, as Republican leaders continued to try to appease hard-right members of the party. The House GOP will return to negotiations over the continuing resolution, as a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government and avert a shutdown looms.

The procedural vote, originally scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, would have been a key step toward passing the stopgap funding measure out of the House — even if it was likely to be rejected by the Senate. McCarthy has urged House Republicans to pass something so they can start negotiating with the Senate, but at least a dozen hard-right lawmakers — angry over what they say is a lack of information on top-line budget numbers — have stymied efforts to pass the 30-day funding bill.

In a shift Tuesday, some Republicans who had helped craft the short-term funding deal over the weekend, including Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), expressed openness to making changes to the package to appease the holdouts in their party. Conversations within the House Republican conference also were far less contentious Tuesday than last week, when tensions came to a boil and McCarthy reportedly dared his detractors to remove him from the speakership.

In the Republicans’ closed-door conference meeting Tuesday, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), another lawmaker who was involved in negotiations on the continuing resolution, urged his colleagues to simply vote on it, according to a person in attendance who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Objectors to the short-term funding deal were instructed Tuesday morning to tell the conference their specific demands, the person said. Only Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) stepped up, asking for top-line budget numbers and bemoaning not passing the 12 individual appropriations bills on which the party is united.

Republican leaders then instructed those with objections to meet with the six lawmakers who had negotiated the deal: Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Stephanie I. Bice (R-Okla.) and Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) from the pragmatic Main Street Caucus; and Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas), Perry and Donalds from the Freedom Caucus.

Shortly after that, the procedural vote was canceled, prompting confusion and frustration from some Republicans. A large stack of pizzas and a whiteboard were spotted being wheeled into the office of Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), where several GOP lawmakers were gathered.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) lamented the time that he said was being wasted over a proposal that the Senate is almost certain to dramatically change. House Freedom Caucus members and other hard-right holdouts were focusing too much on the initial part of the budget negotiations.

“Another aggravation with me in my own party is that we get caught up in the moment. And we’re not very good at thinking two or three moves from now,” Womack said. “You can’t claim victory on something that has no chance of becoming law. And I have likened it to wetting oneself. ... You get a warm feeling that nobody knows.”

The legislation proposed by Republicans over the weekend would keep the government running until Oct. 31 and trigger a 1 percent cut to current fiscal levels, according to the plan released just before lawmakers were briefed Sunday evening. The 1 percent cut is an average for the federal budget. The departments of defense and veterans affairs would not receive any cuts, while other government agencies would have their budgets slashed by 8 percent until the end of October.

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