Deep Republican divisions erupted in the House on Tuesday as a handful of far-right conservatives blocked debate on a Pentagon spending bill, dealing an embarrassing setback to Speaker Kevin McCarthy as he struggled to bring together the votes to prevent the government shutdown in 2017. less than two weeks.
In a development rarely seen in the House, five Republicans broke with their own party and refused to allow the usually largely bipartisan military funding measure to be considered, registering their objections to Mr. McCarthy’s strategy in a growing fight for federal spending. That has left the House paralyzed for the moment, with little time left before the Sept. 30 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
The stunning setback left Mr. McCarthy and his lieutenants scrambling to find a way forward on both their one-year spending bills and a temporary funding bill that had already run into opposition. a buzz of opposition from the far right as the speaker faced new threats of ouster from the party. detractors of his own party. Even if it could pass the House, the temporary spending measure stood little chance in the Democratic-led Senate, where its combination of deep spending cuts and tough border policies was seen as a failure.
But the House’s failure to pass a tentative plan has further delayed any negotiations on Capitol Hill toward a bipartisan compromise on spending. With none of the 12 annual spending bills having passed, such a temporary bill will be needed to keep the government funded after next Friday.
The situation presented Mr. McCarthy with two extremely perilous options: continue to bargain with a small group of his members who seem determined to shut down the government, or circumvent their obstruction by joining forces with Democrats to maintain funding and deal with a promised offer. by right-wing lawmakers to force him out of the presidency.
Republican Party infighting led Republicans to turn on each other, both privately and publicly, as lawmakers in competitive districts won by President Biden worried about the political consequences of a shutdown and were furious far-right tactics, pushing for deeper spending cuts. than what their leaders proposed.
Some Republicans attacked those blocking the Pentagon bill and a broader group that threatened the temporary funding measure, arguing that their colleagues should explain their votes against spending cuts, military preparedness, wage increases and strong border protection.
“I’m probably going to put out a press release and name every single one of them and say that these five members voted with the Democrats not to fund our military, our defense, and not to give a raise to our staff military,” said Rep. Mike Simpson. , Republican of Idaho and senior member of the Appropriations Committee.
Mr. McCarthy and his fellow Republican leaders were hoping for a positive vote on the Pentagon measure to show they were putting their spending plans on track after weeks of disarray. But the five defectors foiled that effort by resisting the leaders, even though they faced pressure on the ground to persuade them to change their vote.
The final vote was 214-212 against the rule allowing the military spending measures to go ahead. All Democrats also voted against it, given their opposition to the bill’s funding levels and the many other provisions added by Republicans who say they need to eliminate the military’s “woke” mentality.
Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, one of five Republicans who voted against the rule, said he opposed all GOP spending initiatives until he received a commitment from M .McCarthy that the House would return federal spending to pre-pandemic levels without any budgetary tricks.
“I want to have a real number,” he said. “I don’t want a smoke and mirrors act.”
The four other Republicans who balked at the rule were Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Ken Buck of Colorado and Matt Rosendale of Montana. All said Republican leaders were not taking reining in federal spending seriously enough.
The result left Republican military supporters in the House furious.
“Our inability to bring this package to a floor vote because of these five individuals who decided to put their personal agendas ahead of the basic needs of our troops is extremely upsetting to us,” said Rep. Mike Garcia, Republican of California. and former Navy pilot. , declared after the vote.
Rep. Don Bacon, Republican of Nebraska, said the result showed his party should start considering working with Democrats to find a solution to the spending impasse, given the looming Sept. 30 deadline and the deep resistance of the right. He called the holdouts the “dysfunction caucus.”
“We should do what James Madison designed in the first place: work across the aisle and find a bipartisan solution,” he said. “This is where we are.”
After the defeat, Mr. McCarthy said he was baffled by the thinking of Republicans who opposed this procedural step.
“They are voting against even bringing up the bill to discuss it,” he told reporters. “The idea that you voted against the rule, even to talk about it, makes no sense to me.”
The clash over the Pentagon measure came after more than a dozen Republicans voiced strong opposition to a temporary funding proposal, leaving it well short of the support needed for a vote Mr. McCarthy had hoped for. still organize Thursday. Republicans met privately Tuesday morning to try to resolve their disagreements in what the speaker described as a “productive” session.
Mr. McCarthy and other Republicans acknowledged that the legislation would need to be revised to have a chance of passing and that the focus was on cutting funding for all federal agencies except military programs. and veterans, larger than the 8 percent reduction initially proposed.
“It’s not going to happen like that,” said Rep. Kevin Hern, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
Supporters were increasingly urging Mr. McCarthy to force a showdown over the temporary funding bill and let Republican opponents face the consequences if it was defeated.
“On Thursday, I’m going to vote to shrink government and I’m going to vote to secure the border,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, Republican of South Dakota and a member of the group that negotiated the tentative plan over the weekend. “I imagine this would be a very difficult vote for other Republicans to follow. If they want open borders and a closed government, then they can try to sell that to the American people. »