Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Sunday that he intended to resurrect a stalled Pentagon spending measure and try to push it to the House floor this week despite pledges by members of the far-right Freedom Caucus to oppose the move unless their sweeping demands on spending were met.
His decision, announced on Fox News, was a bid to pressure far-right members to drop their insistence on steeper spending cuts or risk political heat for blocking the Pentagon funding bill. The move would be a major test for the ultraconservative Republicans who are using the threat of a government shutdown at the end of the month to press their spending goals, as well as of Mr. McCarthy’s ability to unify the House G.O.P. with his job on the line.
“We’ll bring it to the floor, win or lose, and show the American public who’s for the Department of Defense, who’s for the military, who’s for giving them a pay raise,” Mr. McCarthy said. He added that “anytime a Republican wants to hold back and stop the floor from working when Republicans have the majority, that puts us in a weaker position to win in the end of the day.”
The speaker, who is battling calls from the far right for his ouster over his handling of the spending bills, also reiterated his view, made in private meetings with House Republicans last week, that Congress must avoid a government shutdown after Sept. 30. He said his own experience with previous government closures had convinced him that they are best avoided, and that a shutdown would only put President Biden in a stronger position.
“I’ve never seen somebody win a shutdown,” he said. “A shutdown would only give strength to the Democrats. It would give the power to Biden.”
Other House Republican leaders joined Mr. McCarthy in saying that some progress had been made in weekend talks toward resolving their internal differences over their spending strategy, and that they hoped to break the logjam this week.
“We are working through this, and I’m optimistic that we will continue to move the appropriations process forward,” Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York and a member of the leadership team, said in a separate interview on Fox News.
Both the House and the Senate ran into snags last week in their efforts to advance yearlong spending bills, as far-right Republicans knocked the appropriations process off track with time running short.
Leaders of both chambers concede that a stopgap measure will be needed to keep government agencies open after Sept. 30 since none of the 12 annual appropriations bills have yet passed Congress.
Mr. McCarthy also faces challenges in passing a temporary funding bill given that multiple far-right House Republicans have said they would not vote for one without spending cuts and stringent new border measures. House Republicans are working to reach a compromise that would tie elements of a border security bill passed this year to the temporary funding, but such an approach is likely to meet stiff resistance from Senate Democrats.
Mr. McCarthy is maneuvering on the spending issues as he faces threats from the far right about a possible move to remove him from the top House post for not keeping spending commitments and honoring other concessions he made to secure their votes for the speakership during his 15-round battle for the job in January. The speaker said that he would fight to hold his job and that he would not let the threats distract him from the spending showdown.
“I’m only going to focus on the American public,” he said, adding: “We have made great progress here in changing this capital. And when you change Washington, you get enemies.”
Several more mainstream Republicans expressed frustration last week at the efforts of the most conservative wing of their party to hold up the spending bills and have been urging Mr. McCarthy to put the Pentagon bill on the floor. Ms. Stefanik said on Sunday that she and the majority of House Republicans “believe the speaker will survive any type of motion” to remove him from the post.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic leader, said the Republican infighting on spending issues amounted to a “civil war” and he would not say if Democrats would help Mr. McCarthy hold on to his spot if a floor challenge became a reality.
“If that moment presents itself, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Mr. Jeffries said. “But what we should be focused on right now is avoiding an unnecessary government shutdown that will hurt the ability of our economy to continue to recover, which President Biden has led a tremendous recovery to date. And that shouldn’t be interrupted because of partisan, political gamesmanship.”