Kevin McCarthy not ready to abandon negotiated funding deal despite conservative opposition

CNN  — 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that he is not ready to abandon the short-term government funding deal negotiated by members of the House Freedom Caucus and Main Street Caucus, despite warnings from multiple conservative members that they will oppose the deal.

“Have they read it? One thing I always know, sometimes they haven’t read all the way through it,” McCarthy told CNN on Monday. “Let’s let them understand what it is and see where they are.”

On Sunday, CNN reported that a group of six Republican members – three from the conservative House Freedom Caucus and three from the centrist-leaning Main Street Caucus – worked through the weekend to finalize a tentative deal on a short-term spending plan that they hope will get buy-in from across the Republican conference.

McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes on a continuing resolution deal without relying on Democratic votes – which could put his speakership at risk. Several members tweeted their opposition to the deal on Sunday evening following its surfacing, including Reps. Eli Crane of Arizona, Cory Mills of Florida, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Dan Bishop of North Carolina.

Pressed on how this deal still would not be able to pass the Senate, even if they somehow get enough votes to pass it in the House, McCarthy replied, “It’s a good thing I love a challenge, because every day will be a challenge. We’re not on September 30th yet.”

Government funding is slated to run out on September 30.

The agreement, according to GOP sources familiar with the matter who spoke with CNN on Sunday, would pair a 31-day continuing resolution with a House GOP-passed border security package, but without the bill’s provisions on E-Verify, a national immigration status database.

The short-term spending bill also would impose some spending cuts instead of keeping the government funded at current levels. While the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs would be maintained at funding levels, other agencies would face a roughly 8% cut.

The bill does not include the White House request for $40 billion in supplemental funding for natural disasters and the war in Ukraine, which Senate leaders in both parties want attached to any temporary funding bill.

On Monday, McCarthy said that he plans to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when he comes to the Capitol this week, though he has no plans for Zelensky to brief the House Republican Conference.

Across the Capitol, leadership from both parties in the Senate have invited the president to an all-Senate meeting, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell push for Ukraine aid. However, McCarthy told reporters, “no,” when asked if Ukraine aid will be added to government funding legislation in the House.

He also defended his decision not to include supplemental funding for disaster relief in any funding legislation, arguing that if they pass stopgap legislation it will refund FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund with $20 billion.

“That would go to the disasters in those states – Florida, California, Vermont, Hawaii, they’d be able to have those resources,” McCarthy said.

Asked if he’d spoken with Senate leadership about their efforts to fund the government, McCarthy said he spoke with McConnell at the end of last week, after Senate attempts to advance their version of three appropriations bills hit a snag when Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin objected to expediting the process.

“I talked to McConnell after the Senate had failed last week. I talked to them to see where they were going as well,” he told CNN. “It seems like everybody’s in a tough spot. Nothing’s easy.”

CNN’s Lauren Fox and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

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