With little headway being made in negotiations to keep the government’s lights on beyond the end of the week, a shutdown seems all but assured, with Congress shifting into crisis mode as President Joe Biden calls directly on Republicans to help avoid disaster. Rather than respond to that call, however, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) busied himself on Tuesday preparing a request to have his salary withheld until funding is secured.
“It is my understanding that pursuant to the Constitution, members of Congress will continue to receive their pay during a lapse in appropriations,” Gaetz wrote in the letter to the House’s chief administrative officer.
“Therefore, I am requesting that in the case of a lapse of appropriations beginning at 12:00 a.m. on October 1, 2023, my pay be withheld until legislation has taken effect to end such lapse in appropriations in its entirety.”
The letter was obtained by the conservative Daily Caller, with Gaetz confirming it on social media shortly after.
In the event of a government shutdown on October 1st, I have asked the Chief Administrative Officer of the House to withhold my pay until legislation has taken effect to end the lapse in appropriations. https://t.co/vgnQfEeaR2 https://t.co/c5YyAcS0BG pic.twitter.com/MqwMSn4XHf
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) September 26, 2023
Despite the sense of doom seeping into the halls of the Capitol, the Florida Republican has remained cavalier about the prospect of a shutdown. “I think it would be a shutdown we could endure,” he told reporters last week. “We would have to own it. We would have to hold accountable the leaders who brought it.”
He is also one of a number of hardline conservatives threatening to stonewall any effort to secure any short-term funding extension, known as continuing resolutions, in the hopes that it will force Congress to pass all 12 single-subject appropriations bills post-shutdown.
Without Gaetz and his allies, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) doesn’t have the votes to ram any stopgap measure through the House—and should McCarthy try to team up with the Democrats, Gaetz has promised to bring a motion to dethrone him.
On Tuesday, McCarthy still seemed unreceptive to the idea of reaching across the aisle. “I believe we have a majority here, and we can work together to solve this. It might take us a little longer, but this is important,” he told NBC News. “We want to make sure we can end the wasteful spending that the Democrats have put forth.”
In lieu of congressional bipartisanship, McCarthy is turning to Biden as a potential savior—or at least someone to blame, should the shutdown come to pass. McCarthy began pushing Tuesday for a sit-down with the president, insinuating that Biden might be easier to work with than the Democrats. “Why don’t we just cut a deal with the president?” McCarthy asked reporters, saying it was “very important” to get a meeting on the books.
“Listen, the president, all he has to do… it’s only actions that he has to take. He can do it like that. He changed all the policies on the border. He can change those,” McCarthy said, according to NBC. “We can keep [the] government open and finish out the work that we have done.”
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, however, Biden made it clear he expected Republicans to sort their own mess out. “We could be facing a government shutdown if Republicans in the House don’t do their job,” he wrote in one. “Speaker McCarthy and I came to an agreement on spending levels for the government a few months ago.”
“But now,” he continued, “House Republicans refuse to stand up to the extremists in their party—and everyone in America could be forced to pay the price.”
After McCarthy and Biden struck a deal in May to keep funding nearly flat for the next fiscal year, the House Speaker went back on the agreement, announcing that lawmakers would instead try to pass funding at lower levels. The White House and Democrats blasted him for the about-face, accusing him of toadying to the House’s ultraconservatives.
“I need to be very clear, it’s up to the Speaker to twist in the wind. I mean, seriously... a deal is a deal,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, TIME reported.
Meanwhile, over in the upper chamber, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reached an agreement on a bipartisan plan to come to the rescue on Tuesday afternoon, according to The New York Times. The stopgap measure would keep the government open through Nov. 17, allowing lawmakers a longer leash on which to negotiate thornier, longer-term spending matters.
The bill is slated to face a test vote late Tuesday afternoon, the Times reported. Senate leadership hopes to pass it and send it to the House by the end of the week. But with language on the bill providing “billions” in disaster relief and aid to Ukraine—both Biden administration priorities—it is unknown whether McCarthy will even introduce it to the floor, where it will undoubtedly face fierce criticism by Gaetz and Co.
Details on the bill’s exact language were unclear on Tuesday. Sources familiar with talks in the Senate told the D.C. newspaper Roll Call that leadership is “cognizant of the pressures McCarthy is facing and are trying to give him something his conference can feasibly swallow.”
With McCarthy having put the House’s stopgap bill on hold and turned to passing individual bills, the agenda for the rest of Tuesday is expected to include voting on four spending bills. The legislation—which dictates funding for the next year for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State, and Agriculture—imposes steep spending cuts that the Senate is expected to reject outright.
Still, McCarthy seemed to see the votes as a potential bellwether. “I feel we’ve made some progress,” he told reporters, according to CBS News. “We’ll know Tuesday night that we have.”