The senators from Kansas and Missouri all say they don’t want a government shutdown.
“That shouldn’t happen,” said Sen. Eric Schmitt, a Missouri Republican.
“It’s horribly, horribly disappointing,” said Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican.
“We shouldn’t have this kind of hostage taking,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican.
Yet over the course of the week, Schmitt, Marshall and Hawley repeatedly voted against a measure that would keep the government temporarily open until the House and Senate can reach an agreement on the 12 spending bills they were supposed to pass by September 30.
The Senate bill, called a continuing resolution, is expected to pass on Sunday with bipartisan support. It would keep the government funded until Nov. 17 and includes around $6 billion in aid to Ukraine and $6 billion in disaster relief funding. It has picked up bipartisan support in the Senate and has the backing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and more than half of the Republican conference.
But it is unlikely to make it through the Republican-controlled House, where Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said there won’t be support for a bill with Ukraine aid. He’s also made his own demand — that any temporary bill include border security.
Senate leaders of both parties support a bill temporarily keeping the government open, as does the top House Democrat. But McCarthy does not have enough support in his own caucus to pass the bill. And if he passes the bill with Democratic votes, hard-line Republicans have said it would cost McCarthy his job as House Speaker.
But the disagreement between the chambers means that starting Sunday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will start going without pay. Most of them will sent home to stop working. Others, like members of the military, border security agents, TSA agents and air traffic controllers will be asked to show up to work without pay.
“I think when you take a job with the federal government, you realize that there’s pros and cons and this is one of the cons of it,” Marshall said. “That every five or 10 years, there’s a government shutdown. They have they have incredible pay, they have easy hours, only a fourth of them are actually back working in the office right now. So we all have to, you know, sacrifice.”
Marshall and other elected lawmakers continue to get their salary during a shutdown. In previous shutdowns, some members have chosen to miss paychecks while federal employees are out of work.
The lawmakers opposed the temporary spending bill for a variety of reasons. Marshall said he won’t support any bill that has money for Ukraine and likely won’t support any bill that doesn’t have funding for border security. Hawley also said he would have voted for a bill that didn’t have disaster relief or Ukraine funding in it.
When Schmitt emerged from an incremental vote on the bill Tuesday — it takes about a week for a bill to get through the Senate when it doesn’t have unanimous support — instead of railing against the bill, he railed about the legislative process, calling it the worst of Washington.
“This is the height of dysfunction in Washington, DC,” Schmitt said. “The idea that minutes ago we got a CR (continuing resolution), we didn’t spend any time on the floor debating appropriations bills, and we’re supposed to sign off on it now is insane.”
Spending bills are generally supposed to start in the House. But last week, efforts to pass a Republican-led bill to temporarily keep the government open didn’t have enough support to pass.
So when the Senate came in this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, took a House-passed bill and put in new language to keep the government funded.
It’s not unusual for a majority leader to use legislative maneuvers to pass last minute deals. In the early 1970s, Congress passed a law saying they had to pass 12 appropriations bills by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. But they haven’t been able to do so since 1997, according to Casey Burgat, a political science professor at George Washington University.
“It’s really hard to do that on time,” Burgat said. “The federal government isn’t getting smaller, the funding decisions aren’t getting fewer. There’s a lot more emergency response, just it’s really, really hard to budget on a year to year timeline in the way that we do it. To say nothing of the political dynamics.”
But process aside, Schmitt also doesn’t support additional Ukraine funding. Like many of the Republicans against sending more money to Ukraine, he has said the money should go to the southern border first.
Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican who supports the bill temporarily funding the government, said he believes Republicans would be in a stronger position to negotiate an increase in border funding if the government is still running.
“I have been here through a number of shutdowns,” Moran, who has served in the Senate since 2011, said. “I have never seen a good policy result and I’ve never seen a political circumstances that benefited from the shutdown.”
Moran is part of the larger faction of Republican senators who support the temporary funding measure. The Senate also has bipartisan support for a series of appropriations bills to fund the government that were stalled last week by conservative senators pushing for amendments.
“I think my position is clearly made about the efforts we ought to make to reduce spending to better balance our books,” Moran said. “But a shutdown does not accomplish that. And in many ways, it’s much more difficult for the services that many Americans, Kansans need to get those services and it costs a lot more money in the process.”
Hawley, too, has been adamant that he doesn’t believe the government should shut down. He says he supports a bill that would prevent the federal government from ever shutting down again. He rejected the idea that by voting against the temporary funding bill, he was voting for a government shutdown, saying his vote wasn’t needed to pass the measure.
“If my vote was needed, they wouldn’t put that stuff in the CR,” Hawley said, using an acronym for the temporary spending bill. “That’s how legislation works. I mean, if they needed me, then they would come to me and we get a version of it I liked and I’d vote for it. That’s how we do it.”
In the meantime, federal employees are expected to bear the burden of a shutdown. Doreen Greenwald, the president of the NTEU, which represents employees in 31 government agencies, said its sometimes weeks or months before federal workers see the pay they missed during a shutdown.
“I’m concerned that there’s a few in Congress that feel a shutdown is an appropriate tactic and a game that should be played,” Greenwald said.
“Federal employees are treated as pawns in the game.”