WASHINGTON — Republican divisions paralyzed the House again Tuesday as a small group of conservative rebels blocked a motion simply to begin debate on a military funding bill and GOP leaders abandoned a vote separated to avoid closure at the end of the month.
The military vote was close, 212-214, with five GOP hardliners in the narrow majority joining Democrats to defeat it: Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Dan Bishop, R-N.C., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Ralph Norman, R-S.C., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
With just 11 days until the deadline, Norman said a government shutdown was inevitable.
“I don’t see” a way to prevent that, Norman said, adding that conservatives want assurances on an “essential” spending level that Congress will meet before agreeing to pass funding bills for the full year.
Meanwhile, a split within the far right has also endangered the continuation of a resolution, or CR, aimed at avoiding a September 30 shutdown, with some members of the Freedom Caucus rejecting a deal reached between other members of the Freedom Caucus and center-right lawmakers. A procedural vote on the CR was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but leaders withdrew it after failing to overturn the dozen reported negative votes.
“They didn’t have the votes,” Norman said after meeting with leaders.
The House GOP chaos is worse than it seems. The bills Republicans are fighting for have no chance of becoming law — and if passed by the House, they would represent only a first attempt at negotiating with the Democratic-led Senate and President Joe Biden, who oppose the House’s spending cuts and conservative policies. The Republicans continue.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear that the House GOP’s continuing resolution “is a complete failure in the Senate.”
“This is a sloppy, reckless and cruel CR,” Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters.
Hardliners who are unwilling to accept the compromises necessary to pass funding bills through the House are less likely to accept measures that could become law.
And they are threatening to oust President Kevin McCarthy if their demands are not met.
Asked if the short-term funding bill was dead after the day’s setbacks, a frustrated McCarthy acknowledged that “it makes it more difficult.”
“Think about what they’re voting against,” the speaker said. “They’re voting against even introducing the bill…the idea that you would vote against a rule to bring it up? That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Moderate Republicans facing tough races in 2024 have suggested they could pay a political price for Republican Party infighting and alienation of voters who want to see governing in Washington.
Flanked by Republican veterans after the military bill failed Tuesday, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., said, “I’m disappointed. I’m pissed.”
“It’s a bad image to not be able to pass a rule through the floor. And when you do that, what you’ve effectively done is hand the keys of the majority to the minority,” Garcia said, which represents one of the 18 GOPs. districts that Joe Biden won in 2020, said. “Because of this, we now need to limit the damage, especially in swing districts that are vulnerable.”
Specifically, conservative agitators are demanding that McCarthy follow through on the deal he struck with them in January to get the president’s gavel: reduce nondefense discretionary spending to levels that existed before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s a failure to lead on behalf of the speaker that we haven’t already done so,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a Freedom Caucus member and McCarthy foe. “He showed no determination to do so. And he didn’t lead the conference in that direction. And that’s why we didn’t pass our bills.
These stunning public failures came after a day filled with heated and chaotic internal GOP meetings. During a loose morning conference, Republican lawmakers clashed over the CR deal, with some attacking it and others defending it.
Later, in the office of GOP Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., the number of moderate and conservative lawmakers grew so large that they had to split up: One group huddled in a room in the GOP office. Emmer, another went to Deputy Chief Whip Guy Reschenthaler. , R-Pa. Conservative Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said a big problem for leadership is that “some of the people who should be in the room aren’t,” referring to the dozen negative votes.
Burchett offered this long metaphor to describe his frustration: “You let the train leave the station and then you see if it’s going in the right direction, or you see if you can get enough people on board, then you jump in front him and say, ‘Hey, I’m running this train.'”
“It feels like a Festivus, the airing of grievances, in there,” added moderate freshman Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y.
“People are expressing what their constituents need, what they need,” he continued. “A number of us actually want to keep the government in place. Everybody wants to make sure that America stays on a better fiscal path going forward,” calling the meeting “lively but I think productive “.
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., a member of the Freedom Caucus who negotiated the CR deal, said if House Republicans fail to unify, they could be forced to swallow a bill passed by the Democratic-led Senate.
“There is a risk of being blocked by the Senate. I recognize that,” Donalds said. “So if the Senate shuts us down because of, frankly, stupid infighting among House Republicans, the American people will suffer. That’s it.”
Senate Republican leaders are urging their House counterparts not to impose a shutdown.
“I am not a fan of government shutdowns. I’ve seen a few over the years,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday. “They’ve never produced a policy change and they’ve always been political losers. for the Republicans.”