Washington D.C. took another step toward a shutdown on Thursday after Republicans in Congress failed to advance a defense spending bill and were forced to cancel another vote that would have set the government up for 30 days financed.
The Republican Party is embroiled in a civil war, with Chairman Kevin McCarthy battling rebel conservatives who want to oust him and drastically cut U.S. aid to Ukraine.
The party is now trying to find an all-party solution to keep the government open beyond September 30 – with continued opposition to the Republican Party’s latest short-term continuing resolution deal.
McCarthy has challenged far-right hardliners to try to oust him as speaker and has vowed to shame anyone in his party who votes against keeping the government funded.
The critics, including incendiary Rep. Matt Gaetz, have taken to McCarthy’s leadership and demanded more concessions before supporting any bill.
Five rebels dealt a blow to McCarthy on Tuesday afternoon by breaking ranks and blocking progress on a defense spending bill.
They were Reps. Andy Biggs, Ariz., Dan Bishop, NC, Ken Buck, Colo., Ralph Norman, SC, and Matt Rosendale, Mont.
Republican Rep. Mike Garcia called Republicans who voted against the Pentagon spending bill ‘Chinese sympathizers’
“None of us are in favor of a shutdown,” said Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y. ‘I will not be party to it. I will do everything I can to prevent one from happening.’ “There is certainly a degree of frustration with what some of our colleagues are doing in terms of the way they negotiate within the conference.”
Some have wondered why Republican leadership introduced a bill they had no votes for — but others speculate that the speaker might want to target conservative opponents for not supporting the troops.
Chaos broke out in the House of Representatives, with Democrats shouting “regular order” and Republican members saying the band of rebels had handed China a “victory” by cutting the Pentagon’s 2024 budget.
The pressure is now boiling outward as the defense appropriations failure signals that the spending battle is far from over.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned his colleagues in the House of Representatives that shutdowns have “always been a loser for Republicans politically.”
“I don’t think anyone wants a shutdown. “Just think for a moment what a shutdown does: it stops paying our troops,” McCarthy said earlier, even as several members of the Freedom Caucus have said they are not afraid of a government shutdown.
An angry Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., flanked by nearly a dozen Republican veterans in Congress, accused those who voted against introducing the bill of being “Chinese sympathizers.”
“For political purposes for optics, they decided to vote against a rule out of fear to even allow this to come up for discussion,” the former Navy officer told reporters — noting that the bill reverses the Biden administration’s “reckless policies” and gives junior enlisted troops their biggest pay raise ever.
Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., said he and his wife raised their family on food stamps while he was on active duty as a Navy SEAL.
“Five people from the Republican conference just voted to ensure that our junior service members will still live below the poverty line,” he said.
“They need to be held accountable for that.”
A group of Republicans representing districts that President Biden won also grilled reporters on the five opponents of the defense spending bill.
“None of us are in favor of a shutdown,” said Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y. ‘I will not be party to it. I will do everything I can to prevent one from happening.’
“There is certainly some frustration with what some of our colleagues are doing in terms of the way they negotiate within the conference.”
“Right now we have certain individuals who are holding (our) work hostage,” said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y. ‘We are not in favor of closing the government. We will not support shutting down the government.”
After months of preparation, the House of Representatives passed only one of the 12 budget bills it had promised to pass: for military construction and Veterans Affairs. Even if they passed all 12, they would have to reconcile with the Senate, which has not yet passed one.
McCarthy has warned House members they could stay all weekend to try to push through more spending bills as negotiators still try to build support for a short-term continuing resolution put forward by the right-wing House Freedom Caucus and the pragmatic conservative Main. Street Caucus.
The short-term deal would have kept funding for Defense and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at 2023 levels and led to an eight percent cut to all other agencies.
In addition to E-Verify, it would also implement the provisions of the Republicans’ border bill, HR 2. The bill leaves out funding for Ukraine and disaster relief.
The Short-Term Continuing Resolution (CR) would have pushed back the funding deadline to October 30, giving Congress an additional month to pass appropriations bills and fund the government for the 2024 fiscal year.
But it still drew opposition from more than a dozen Republicans, largely from the Freedom Caucus, as those working on the deal demanded to know exactly what they wanted.
McCarthy demanded at a closed-door meeting that those opposed to the deal march to Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s office and explain what they were against.
A number of opponents were seen walking into the whip’s office after the meeting to state their complaints.
If the short-term CR is passed, it will be dead on arrival in the Senate. But Republicans in the House of Representatives want to give the Senate a starting offer to continue working on the negotiations, instead of the other way around.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the House of Representatives see an opportunity to work with centrist Republicans to force a vote on a clean spending bill or a continuation of the resolution. Using a discharge petition, an old procedure that is rarely successful, they could force the vote if they get the support of all Democrats and at least five Republicans.
Even if a CR is passed, Congress will have to use the additional time to pass spending legislation for the entire fiscal year 2024. It’s unlikely that the House and Senate will ever reconcile 12 separate appropriations bills, so they would have to move toward a broader budget. omnibus package that funds all agencies in one vote or in a longer-term continuing resolution.