In a week marked by political turbulence, House Republicans faced significant internal challenges, failing twice to pass a procedural hurdle for one of its 12 annual spending bills. This setback underscores the ongoing chaos surrounding the funding of the government for the next fiscal year.
The most recent vote on Thursday ended in a narrow defeat, 212-216, with five Republicans joining Democrats to block the procedural bill, known as a rules vote. The conservatives who opposed the bill include Reps. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.). This unexpected outcome has been seen as a significant blow to House GOP leaders, particularly House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has been advocating for the passage of 12 individual appropriations bills to fund the government. This approach contrasts with the large "omnibus" spending bill that Democrats passed when they controlled Congress last year.
The House's inability to advance the defense spending bill rule vote on Tuesday further highlights the divisions within the GOP. This internal strife comes at a critical juncture, as the potential for a government shutdown looms if no action on spending is taken by September 30.
Emerging from a closed-door conference meeting on Wednesday evening, GOP lawmakers seemed optimistic, believing they were making progress on a 30-day stopgap spending deal. This temporary measure was intended to avert a shutdown and provide more time to finalize their spending bills. However, only one of these bills has been passed to date.
The unexpected vote outcomes have left many questioning the GOP's strategy and cohesion. Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) defended his decision, stating, "The people back in my district, they're tired of the way this town works. They understand there's no appetite to quit spending money we don't have."
The political theater reached a climax when, despite the vote clock counting down to zero, several Democrats swiftly entered the chamber to reject the bill, leading to cheers from their colleagues. The atmosphere was further charged when Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) arrived late to cast the tie-breaking vote.
The House's schedule for the remainder of the week remains uncertain. Lawmakers had initially planned to vote on amendments to the defense spending bill and were expected to finalize the bill by Friday.
As Washington barrels towards a potential government shutdown, the GOP's internal divisions and inability to pass even messaging bills that would represent their opening bid have raised concerns. The infighting could intensify as they navigate policy compromises to produce a bill that President Joe Biden can sign into law.
The unfolding events serve as a stark reminder of the challenges and complexities of governance, especially in a divided political landscape. As the September 30 deadline approaches, all eyes will be on Congress to see if a resolution can be reached to avert a government shutdown.