Rift between McCarthy and McConnell widens over next spending bill undercutting House GOP

McConnell and some GOP senators voted with Democrats for a week-long spending bill to give them more time to negotiate a larger, year-long package in the lame duck session, which McCarthy opposes.

A rift is widening between Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy as a result of the former working with Democratic leaders in the lame duck session before the new Congress begins to pass a year-long government funding bill that raises domestic spending.

In addition, McConnell and a group of GOP lawmakers joined Democrats in the Senate on Thursday to pass a week-long funding bill that provides Democrats more time to hash out a larger spending package that McCarthy opposes.

McConnell has kept the door open to a year-long bill, while McCarthy wants the current Congress to instead pass a short-term spending bill that would expire early next year as a way to give the new Congress a chance to negotiate a spending package after it convenes in January.

The year-long omnibus bill under consideration would increase domestic spending over fiscal 2022 levels by at least 9.5%, which is what President Biden requested. In addition, Congress already passed the defense bill, which raises defense spending by about 10%.

McConnell has said if the Democrats include "poison pills" in the year-long bill, the Senate GOP would only support a temporary funding bill into January.

In addition to McConnell, House and Senate appropriations committee leaders, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are also involved in the spending bill talks.

Conservative Republicans have expressed disapproval of McConnell playing ball on a year-long bill.

"With regard to the spending bill, it's important to remember that since 1994 we've seen control of the House of Representatives shift from one party to another four times," said Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee. "In each of those instances, there was no omnibus passed by Congress following the election leading to that shift. It didn't happen because it shouldn't happen." 

Further frustrating conservatives, some GOP House and Senate members, including McConnell, voted with the Democrats to pass the week-long funding bill to give negotiators more time to work on the larger spending package.

The vote in the Senate on the week-long funding bill was  71-19 with 10 senators not voting. In the House, there were 9 GOP lawmakers who voted with Democrats on the bill: Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.), Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Steve Womack (R-Ark.).

House Republican leaders lamented this week that they have have been cut out of negotiations related to the spending bill, despite having won the chamber majority last month.

"As [Leader McCarthy] pointed out, just a handful of people — at most — are writing it right now," said House GOP Whip Steve Scalise. "It's still not even available for anyone to read. And yet, they want the ability to go and bring that on the eve of Christmas because it's a sign that Congress failed to do its job. 

"The Democrat House, the Democrat Senate, the Democrat White House, had all year to get funding taken care of by September 30th. And, of course, they blew through that deadline and asked for another few months right before the election. They surely didn't want to be accountable for what they knew they were going to do, so they kicked the can again till after the election." 

The California Republican, who hopes to be elected House speaker, pointed out that the two key Senate negotiators on the spending bill, Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, are retiring from Congress and won’t be returning next session.