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In California, GOP divided over McCarthy deal with Democrats

As Rep. Kevin McCarthy was turning to Democrats for help passing a stopgap government funding bill, his fellow California Republicans were busy at the party’s state convention in Anaheim, bantering about the party’s platform and ogling presidential candidates.

McCarthy’s deal to fund the government for the next 45 days passed the House with more support from Democrats than Republicans, demonstrating his inability to hold his caucus together on key votes. Ninety Republicans opposed the measure.

The short-term funding bill, which still needed to pass the Senate and get the signature of President Biden before midnight Saturday in order to avoid a government shutdown, nixed support for Ukraine.

Attendees at the state Republican Party convention were just as divided as their representatives in Congress.

Cynthia Kaui, 28, president of San Diego Young Republicans, said the club’s members are mixed about whether to send more aid to Ukraine. Support for Ukraine is divided sharply along ideological lines, with 62% of conservatives believing the U.S. is doing too much to support the nation against Russia’s invasion, compared with just 17% of liberals, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released this week.

More important than any particular aspect of the spending bill, Kaui said, was that Democrats and Republicans work together to keep the government operating.

“That’s one thing, in general on the national side, that we’ve lost sight of … the ability to have discourse and dialogue,” Kaui said. “I hope ultimately that both of the sides can come together and compromise.”

A government shutdown could negatively affect Republican candidates’ chances in next year’s elections. A Morning Consult Pro poll released Tuesday indicated that 34% of voters would blame a government shutdown on congressional Republicans, compared with 23% who’d put the onus on Biden, and 21% who’d blame Democrats in Congress.

There are moments when it’s important for Republicans to take a stand and draw attention to bloated budgets and problematic social programs, Sacramento County Republican Party Chair Betsy Mahan told The Times as she stood in line for a platform committee meeting.

This, she said, was not one of those moments.

“There are a few people holding it up over purity tests,” she said of the funding. “It’s fine to speak up, but you need to go along with everyone else at some point.”

GOP delegate Randall Jordan of Paso Robles disagreed.

“I don’t believe in the big tent. I believe in a tent that will house like-minded people,” he said.

Jordan, who owns a construction company, said that when there is a downturn or he can’t meet his budget, he lays people off. He acknowledged that a shutdown could put some Republicans in swing districts at risk. But one has to happen, he said.

“In the short run, I think it could hurt us,” he added. “But I still believe that most of our citizens are conservative, and it will be OK.”

Generally, attendees to the weekend convention seemed more concerned with the spectacle of visiting presidential candidates or local matters than the government shutdown battle happening across the country.

Kimberly Nguyen of North Pasadena arrives at the California Republican Party Convention 2023

Kimberly Nguyen of North Pasadena arrives at the California Republican Party Convention 2023 at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel on Friday, September 29, 2023.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

“Today the real threat to us is not even from Congress on the eve of whatever artificial shutdown debate they having at a given hour today,” GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said to a luncheon crowd of about 500 people Saturday. “That’s not the real threat we face. The real threat we face in the United States is the rise of that managerial class from our universities to corporate America to the ultimate model of that managerial class in the administrative state in the federal government today.”

In particular, convention attendees were caught up Saturday with a vote on whether to change the state party’s platform to make it more welcoming to LGBTQ+ individuals. That effort failed, frustrating some delegates who had hoped to see the party remove language that says “it is important to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”

“This will hamstring California’s Republican Party as voters wonder what decade the party is focused on … the past over the future,” said Charles Moran, a Los Angeles County delegate and president of Log Cabin Republicans, a national group representing LGBTQ+ conservatives and their allies.

Covina Mayor Walt Allen said that as a former FBI employee, he feels for the families who face a potential government shutdown. But he said the government has to send a message about the nation’s “tremendous deficit.”

“So I’m hoping that there’s going to be a resolution brought to bear. I know Kevin McCarthy is trying real hard to have a united front and to not shut the government down,” Allen said, before acknowledging that McCarthy had lost the support of several hard-right Republicans in the House.

Guests at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel hang flags on their balcony during the California

Guests at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel hang flags on their balcony during the California Republican Party Convention 2023.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

Montecito resident Thomas Cole, 66, who said he is planning to run for Congress next year against incumbent Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), said it would be fine with him if the government were to shut down, which he hoped it would send a message to voters that they should be concerned about the national debt.

“I’m not worried about [a shutdown]. I’m sorry a few people won’t get their paychecks on time, but they all get paid eventually,” Cole said. “The government is way too big, in my opinion, so let it shut down. … Let them have a break from spending money.”

Convention delegate Beth Holder said Saturday that she supports McCarthy’s move to push through a stopgap bill to continue funding the government, without funding for Ukraine.

“I really don’t think the shutdown is a good idea,” Holder said. “Anytime we freeze government, it kind of puts everybody in a paralyzed situation.”

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