GOP scrambles to prevent shutdown after right-wing insurrection

The House on Thursday plunged into chaos and the possibility of a Saturday government shutdown suddenly ticked up after an insurrection at a GOP conference meeting left Republican leaders scrambling to find votes for their stopgap spending measure.

The morning after the Senate by voice vote approved a measure to keep the government open through Feb. 8, rank-and-file House members expressed outrage that the measure did not include disaster relief or $5 billion in funding for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees MORE’s proposed border wall.

“The majority of Republicans are not currently pleased with the play call,” Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusHouse lawmakers look to reassure Australia after Mattis resignation On The Money: Latest on shutdown risk | Trump digs in on wall funding | House GOP looks to move .7B for border wall | GOP senators stunned | Stocks plunge amid Washington chaos GOP scrambles to prevent shutdown after right-wing insurrection MORE (R-Ill.) told The Hill. “There’s a revolt from the rank-and-file members.”

Trump further exacerbated the problems for GOP members with a tweet that suggested to some that he might not sign the measure.

ADVERTISEMENT

“When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership. Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries — but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!” he wrote. 

The White House later said Trump would meet with House Republicans at noon on Thursday. 

“At this moment, the president does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “The president is continuing to weigh his options.”

The tweet came after Trump was ripped by conservative pundits and some lawmakers for the White House’s signal that it could support a funding measure that didn’t meet his demands for $5 billion in wall funding.

During the raucous House GOP meeting, outgoing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism MORE (R-Wis.) took a lengthy call from Trump.

And after the meeting, GOP leadership canceled a scheduled morning press conference.

House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseDemocrats will push to retake vote on funding government after chaos on the floor Pelosi pulls State of the Union surprise on Trump House GOP blast Pelosi for suggesting State of the Union delay MORE (R-La.) expressed skepticism over whether they can avert the looming shutdown.

“I can’t predict where it leads, but we want to solve this problem,” he told reporters as he left for the White House. 
 
“Clearly we’re talking to the president on the best way to get the wall funded, move a bill that actually funds the wall and funds the other agencies of government that expire on Friday,” Scalise said. “And so we want to get the $5 billion to secure our border and let the president have the tools he needs to make sure we keep the country safe.”  

One option under consideration, according to Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Local banks can lead bipartisan efforts on financial regulation Senate agrees to last-ditch talks, but no clear path over shutdown MORE (R-N.C.), is to add $5 billion in wall funding and a disaster aid package to the stopgap, but he cautioned that “nothing’s been decided.”

“We’re wrestling with how we handle that,” McHenry told reporters. "That’s why the meeting went long. We have further conversations we need to have to get House Republicans in a more comfortable position."

It’s unlikely a bill that includes the $5 billion in wall funding would be able to pass on the House floor, though disaster relief may have a better shot. But any changes would need to be sent back to the Senate for approval.

Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerGOP scrambles to prevent shutdown after right-wing insurrection Congress must restrain power of new consumer financial director GOP congresswoman says she opted out of NRCC run because McCarthy had 'a different plan' MORE (R-Mo.), a senior member of the whip team, was overheard on an elevator telling colleagues, “I’m going to whip the holy hell out of this thing.”

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government Overnight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Calif.), who is expected to be elected Speaker in weeks, said Democrats are open to tweaks in the measure, but will not support wall funding.

"In terms of wall funding, that's a nonstarter. I think they know that," she said. 

Pelosi also said Democrats would be willing to help Republicans pass a rule governing debate on the bill.
 
House rule votes are usually party-line votes, but Republicans could face difficulties passing the rule for the spending measure given the opposition within the conference to it.
 
Complaints about the stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, came not only from hard-liners in the House Freedom Caucus but from other conservatives.

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest conservative caucus, put out a statement on Twitter shortly after the conference meeting saying they "stand united in calling for funding for the border wall.”

"The House Republican Conference is ready to fight on the wall," tweeted RSC Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerCorker: Breakthrough reached in shutdown stalemate Senate in last-minute talks to find deal to avert shutdown  GOP takes victory lap around Pelosi after passing border wall bill MORE (R-N.C.), who was elected to serve in GOP leadership in the next Congress. "Let’s get the $5B vote on the floor — today!"

Rep. Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackPelosi to make history with second Speakership GOP rep says Dems want to hand Trump a government shutdown House budget chairman says government shutdown remains up in the air MORE (R-Ark.), a conservative but not a member of the Freedom Caucus, warned that excluding the additional wall funding would break promises to Republican voters. 

“That's the problem, we just let the leadership make the play calls and this is a different circumstance. We're about to lose the majority and we made promises — promises that haven't been kept,” he said while leaving the meeting. “People like me are not convinced that doing a CR until Feb. 8 does anything but just raise the white flag.”

Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsCongress starts first day of shutdown with modest hope Senate agrees to last-ditch talks, but no clear path over shutdown Pelosi vows Dem help after GOP ‘meltdown’ on spending bills MORE (R-Texas) said he’s also opposing the CR without the wall funding, suggesting House Republicans were rallying against a clean CR in order to encourage Trump to take a harder line on his signature campaign promise.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We still need to remind ourselves that the president got elected with the idea of building the wall ... [and] I don't think we should give up on the wall,” Williams said. 

“I don't think the CR's going to make it — I'm not for it,” he added. “I can't stand in his shoes, but I just know that he won on building a wall. And the biggest issue in my district is: build the wall. 

"That's what he ran on; that's what he wants. We need to give him that support.”

The mystery over what Trump would do left lawmakers giving contradictory messages with one another.

Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsWhat a year it’s been: A month-by-month look back at 2018's biggest stories Trump vents frustration over wall funding, fueling uncertainty over shutdown GOP scrambles to prevent shutdown after right-wing insurrection MORE (R-N.Y.), one of Trump's closest allies in Congress, said GOP leaders had received assurances that Trump would sign the short-term spending bill.

“All indications are he's comfortable with the clean CR,” Collins said shortly after the meeting began.

Other lawmakers inside the closed-door meeting said members pressed GOP leadership for more clarity on whether Trump would sign the bill, but received zero guarantees.

Trump scrambled the spending fight last week during a televised White House meeting with Democratic leaders at which he said he would accept blame for a shutdown over the wall, a move that shifted leverage in the fight further to Democrats.

Opponents of the stopgap have noted that Republicans are likely to have even less leverage in a fight over the wall in February, when Democrats will hold the House majority.

Late Wednesday, the House Rules Committee punted a decision on a rule governing a vote until Thursday. But after a whip count to assess how many members were in town and ready to vote on the stopgap, the GOP seemed resigned to accepting the resolution and moving ahead to a vote on Thursday.

Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP senators would support postponing State of the Union Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing Hopes fade for bipartisan bills in age of confrontation MORE (R-N.D.), who was elected to the Senate last month, said he was undecided how he would vote on the CR.

He said he will see Trump later Thursday when he signs the farm bill and would gauge how committed the president is to the $5 billion in wall funding. 

“Will it pass? I suppose it will pass because there is something like 16 or 17 [Republicans] who aren't here. But it will be bitter, I'm afraid,” Cramer said emerging from the meeting.

“There are a good number of people who want to continue the fight. And frankly I'm one of them. I want to have the fight, I want to give the effort. Some people would like to go into the weekend and demonstrate our will” while Republicans still have the majority, Cramer added.

Updated at 12:01 p.m. 

Niv Elis and Juliegrace Brufke contributed.