House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) stunning exit from the race for speaker on Thursday has added a new layer of confusion to bipartisan negotiations to raise the statutory spending caps, raising doubts as to who will represent the House GOP in talks.
And with only two months before the continuing resolution (CR) now in place runs out — and even less time before the nation’s debt ceiling needs to be extended — McCarthy’s surprise decision to drop out of the race to replace House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reduces the prospect that Congress will strike a comprehensive deal on either issue.
“This is all we needed,” House Appropriations Chair Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters after hearing the news.
Appropriators have said they could put together a year-end omnibus spending bill in about a month, requiring budget negotiations to produce topline spending levels by early November. But with the focus on Capitol Hill firmly on finding new House leadership, the fallback option of passing a full-year CR becomes much more likely.
“You can’t be very optimistic right now,” said Kay Granger (R-Texas), a senior appropriator. “I think that this was just such a surprise this morning that it kind of throws everything off. It’s going to take us a little while to regroup and figure out the way forward, and that’s what we’ve got to do,” she said, reported CQ.
Conversely, Boehner’s commitment to stay on until a replacement is elected could provide more time and room for him to reach a budget deal with Democrats. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a Boehner ally, said it’s very likely budget talks are continuing despite the leadership turmoil.
“So I don’t know that this impacts it one way or the other materially,” Cole said.
Several lawmakers said the power vacuum in the House leadership ranks makes it difficult to predict what will come next.
“Who knows? Literally everything is up in the air right now,” said Granger.