House Republicans were set Thursday to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and again try to get back to passing spending bills to avoid a looming government shutdown after the defense funding bill was stalled for the second time in three days.
“That was the most productive meeting we’ve had in some time and frankly we heard really good ideas,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told reporters after emerging from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office.
But just a few hours later, McCarthy’s leadership team notified members that no further votes were expected Thursday. They said that discussions were continuing and they would give lawmakers ample notice of any potential votes in the coming days.
The notice was the latest round of the chaotic stop-and-go process House Republicans have engaged in this week to try to hammer out a position for their entire conference on federal spending.
Thursday morning saw another embarrassing defeat for Republicans, and McCarthy in particular, when he couldn’t even get the votes to move forward with a $826 billion defense funding bill. The rule, which must pass before a vote on the bill, failed on a 212 to 216 vote. Six Republicans voted with Democrats to keep the defense bill off the floor, similar to a five-vote margin on the rule Tuesday.
The dissidents this time included three from Tuesday’s vote ― Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) ― as well as two new “no” voters, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Elijah Crane (R-Ariz.). Another, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) switched his vote to “no” so a re-vote could be called.
Greene said in a social media post that she voted no Thursday after voting to advance the bill two days prior because of concerns over funding Ukraine’s effort to defend itself against Russian invaders. The bill had not changed between Tuesday and Thursday.
The floor loss was made more surprising because McCarthy thought he would be able to get the defense bill on the floor after a lengthy party meeting Wednesday night.
“I think we’ve got a plan to move forward, going to [the Department of Defense] and then going to a number of other appropriation bills,” McCarthy told reporters at the time.
McCarthy had hoped to move to the defense bill, pass it and begin work on a temporary stopgap spending bill to keep the entire government funded beyond Sept. 30 in order to avoid a government shutdown and allow lawmakers to hash out spending details for 2024. But Thursday’s floor may put that process back to square one.
Gaetz said there was “growing understanding and appreciation” that there would not be a stopgap bill, despite wide consensus on Capitol Hill it is practically impossible to pass all 12 bills needed to keep the government open by the Sept. 30 deadline.
He also said there was “some progress” in discussing the sequence in which individual spending bills would come to the House floor and under what debate limitations. A bill funding the State Department could move before the Defense Department bill, for example.
Meanwhile, Democrats continued to point to the floor mishaps as further evidence Republicans cannot govern.
“With each passing day, [Make America Great Again] Republicans are giving the American people new reasons to vote them out of office,” said Viet Shelton, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “First, it’s threatening our national security in order to enact an extreme agenda, then, it’s an irresponsible, GOP-manufactured shutdown.”