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McCarthy may have to choose between government shutdown and speakership: Journalist

With just three days left before a potential government shutdown, the Senate has released a bipartisan funding deal aimed at avoiding it. A shutdown could result in federal employees being furloughed, essential workers forced to work without pay, and delays in government services and benefits payments.

However, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has struggled to reach an agreement within his own party. In fact, McCarthy may have to choose between his speakership and the shutdown. The Nation D.C. Bureau Chief Chris Lehmann tells Yahoo Finance that McCarthy's calculation is– do you keep the government functioning and potentially sacrifice your speakership? or keep your speakership and "own what, by any measure, would be sort of a catastrophic, self-inflicted budget crisis on the rest of the country?" "Sadly, I think everything is trending in the latter direction," Lehmann says.

"The deal that the senate hammered out yesterday, would be a good framework," Lehmann says, "if we had a sanely run GOP majority in the house, we don't."

For more expert insight and the latest market action, click here to watch this full episode of Yahoo Finance Live.

Video Transcript

BRAD SMITH: With just days to go before the government runs out of funding, the Senate has unveiled a plan to avert a shutdown. But the bill faces long odds in the House as Speaker Kevin McCarthy struggles to negotiate a deal that will satisfy hardliners in his own party. His other option is to work with House Democrats, but doing so could position a Speaker in jeopardy. Hard right members, namely Congressman Matt Gaetz, have repeatedly and previously threatened to oust McCarthy. Is there any hope to avoid a shutdown this late in the game, and how real is the threat to McCarthy's leadership?

With us now we've got Chris Lehmann, who is the nation's DC Bureau Chief. Chris, good to have you here. We've been trying to get a gauge on the probability that we will either go into a shutdown or perhaps, on the rosier side, avoid a shutdown. What are you putting those odds at right now?

CHRIS LEHMANN: I would put the odds of a shutdown happening as extremely likely at this point. You know, the deal that the Senate hammered out yesterday would be a good framework if we had a kind of sanely-run GOP majority in the House. We don't. As the clips you had showed demonstrated, this hard right faction within the caucus is kind of throttling any deal out of the gate. They have, you know, not even allowed basic spending priorities to come to a committee vote let alone to a floor vote.

As you also noted, the prospect of collaborating with Democrats who could easily pass any House budget measure is sort of a poison pill for Kevin McCarthy's speakership. And the reason for that is, in order to get the speakership, he agreed to a motion to vacate provision, which is what Matt Gaetz keeps waving in his face every time there's a prospect of any kind of agreement, you know?

So you have this kind of nihilistic wing of the Republican caucus that is simply opposed to any agreement that can be depicted as a win for Democrats, and they're prepared, evidently, to shut down the entire government to prevent that from happening. And meanwhile, Kevin McCarthy is sort of being held hostage to the Faustian bargain he made in order to become Speaker. He gave all this power to the hard right in his caucus, and now they are flexing it and threatening his speakership.

So McCarthy's ultimate calculation here is, do you govern in a responsible manner and keep, you know, the basic services of government functioning and potentially surrender your speakership, or do you hang on to your speakership and own what would by any measure be sort of a catastrophic, self-inflicted budget crisis on the rest of the country? Sadly, everything is trending in the latter direction.

SEANA SMITH: And Chris, that leads me to ask you, because certainly there have been both sides of the aisle obviously at risk here if we do see a shutdown just in terms of public perception and the potential backlash there. If we do see a government shutdown, does anyone win in that situation?

CHRIS LEHMANN: No, and Mitch McConnell of all people has come forward and said that nobody wins a shutdown. And in this case, you know, it is worth stressing, you know, in past shutdown fights, there has been engagement on both sides of the partisan aisle. This is a unique set of circumstances in that it's all self-inflicted on the Republican side.

You know, Democrats have, you know, not really engaged because they're just waiting for McCarthy to get his caucus in sufficient order so that, you know, again, basic committee votes can be cleared. So you know, it's-- it's hard to see any scenario. I mean, McCarthy right now is making kind of a last ditch pitch to make it all about border security and claiming that, you know, because, you know, Biden and the Democrats won't endorse a draconian border crackdown that they own the shutdown. I don't see that really working as an appeal to the general public.

You're going to see, you know, millions of government workers who are deemed nonessential no longer drawing a paycheck. You're going to see, you know, profound, you know, knock-on effects in the broader economy in the event of a shutdown. And again, it all stems from the basic inability of McCarthy to keep his caucus in line. That is very much a Republican problem.