The House on Thursday has voted down a rule that would have advanced a Defense Department bill, another stumbling block for Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Republican leadership ahead of a looming government shutdown deadline.
The final vote was 216-212.
While the specific legislation is separate from a proposal to keep the government funded beyond the present September 30 deadline, the defeat is another sign of divisions within the House Republican Conference, which has been negotiating for days to come up with a plan that can unify GOP House members. This is the third time House Republicans have bucked McCarthy and GOP leadership in a vote on a rule, a traditionally pro forma step that is taken to advance legislation.
McCarthy emerged visibly frustrated from the House floor while it was in total paralysis as House hardliners tanked another rule, slamming the group for just wanting to “burn the place down.”
“It’s frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate,” McCarthy told reporters.
Opposition from hardliners has plagued efforts by Republican leadership to unify behind a plan to fund the government. Days of negotiations have yielded a few apparent breakthroughs, but McCarthy’s Republican opponents have been quick to throw cold water on progress and openly defy the speaker’s calls for unity. McCarthy’s thin margin in the chamber means that in most votes he can only lose four members without any support from Democrats – and absences can raise and lower the majority threshold.
Late Thursday evening, McCarthy briefed his conference behind closed doors on a new plan to keep the government open – paired with deeper spending cuts and new border security measures – all in an attempt to win over wary members on his right flank. The plan, as outlined by the speaker, would keep the government open for 30 days at a $1.471 trillion spending level, a commission to address the debt and a border security package. Separately, they also agreed to move year-long funding bills at a $1.526 trillion level. That level is below the bipartisan agreement that the speaker reached with the White House to raise the national debt limit.
As part of the deal, Republicans told CNN on Thursday night that they have the votes to move forward on the yearlong Pentagon spending bill that five conservative hardliners scuttled just Tuesday, with Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Ken Buck of Colorado indicating they will flip to a yes on the rule and will vote to advance the Department of Defense bill Thursday after the speaker came down to the spending levels that Norman had been demanding.
But Thursday’s vote had five Republican opponents as well – as six Republicans total ended up voting against the rule. Reps. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Matt Rosendale of Montana, Eli Crane of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia voted against the bill. House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole of Oklahoma also eventually changed his vote, casting his vote against the Rule so he could bring it back up for reconsideration. It’s unclear when Republicans may try the vote again.
Republican leadership has alerted House members they plan to stay in session Friday and Saturday amid the standoff.
This story has been updated with additional developments.