GOP Hardliners Hand McCarthy a Pair of Stinging Defeats

GOP Hardliners Hand McCarthy a Pair of Stinging Defeats

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

House Republican dysfunction was on full display Tuesday as conservatives forced leaders to pull a key vote on the party’s own proposed stopgap spending bill and then torpedoed another vote to advance a Defense funding bill, handing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy a pair of embarrassing defeats.

“McCarthy is now left without a viable plan to fund the government, with just 12 days left to avoid a shutdown,” Politico said.

The stopgap spending bill introduced Sunday by Republican members of the House Freedom Caucus and the Main Street Caucus was quickly met with opposition from staunch conservatives. The bill, which would extend funding until the end of October, had been scheduled for a procedural vote Tuesday. Instead, McCarthy had to postpone it because of ongoing divisions in his conference that meant the vote would have failed.

“Trying to get all but four Republicans to back a short-term funding bill has proven to be a herculean effort for the conference, which has faced objections from far-right lawmakers who are making demands that the conference has little to no time to address,” the Washington Post reports.

A short-term funding patch is necessary to avert a government shutdown once current funding expires at the end of the month. The House Republican stopgap wouldn’t accomplish much given that it would more than likely be rejected by the Senate even if McCarthy’s members united behind it, but the speaker has been urging his conference to pass a plan so he could have some leverage in talks with the Senate.

House Republican hardliners have instead pressed for promises that their fiscal demands will be met in any deal. Some in the party oppose any stopgap and insist that they should be passing their annual appropriations bills instead. Some have expressed openness to a shutdown. "Will it take a couple weeks of shutdown? Probably so. That's a fight we need to be willing to have right now," said Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, according to Axios. "The odds of not having a shutdown are slim-to-none."

Some McCarthy allies reportedly believe that several conservatives simply want to provoke a shutdown so they can oust the speaker.

Moderates in the party are growing frustrated. "Some people would vote against the Bible because there is not enough Jesus in it," said Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, according to Axios. Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York told reporters that the holdouts were demonstrating “stupidity,” not conservatism: “These people can't define a win. They don’t know how to take yes for an answer. It is a clown show.”

GOP Defense bill fails again: GOP infighting has also meant that Republicans have only been able to pass one of the 12 annual appropriations bills so far. On Tuesday, the intraparty divisions resulted in the House failing to advance an $826 billion Republican bill to fund the Defense Department for fiscal year 2024. Hardliners in the party are demanding that discretionary spending for the coming year won’t exceed the 2022 level of $1.47 trillion, which is $120 billion below the caps that McCarthy and President Joe Biden set as part of their deal to raise the debt limit earlier this year.

Opposition from conservative hardliners had forced Republican leaders to pull the Defense spending bill from consideration a week ago, but McCarthy brought it back up this week knowing that a defeat was possible. In the end, five Republicans — Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Ken Buck of Colorado, Norman of South Carolina and Matt Rosendale of Montana — joined with Democrats in voting against the measure, which failed 212-214. Democrats oppose the bill because it includes measures targeting abortion access, transgender care and diversity efforts.

“Hard-right lawmakers have been calling on GOP leaders to pass all 12 appropriation bills to fund the government for the full year,” the Post notes. “But many have also served as an impediment to that goal, blocking basic procedural steps and preventing the rest of the House Republican conference from approving policies many largely support.”

What’s next: The GOP’s Chaos Caucus is out in full force, leaving little sign that Republicans can unite behind a strategy or that a government shutdown will be averted. “I think today's vote showed just how broken we are,” Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas told CNN. “There's no doubt in my mind we're headed for a shutdown. I'm looking at it as, Is that shutdown gonna be 10 days or is that shutdown gonna be 10 weeks?”

Still, some lawmakers are reportedly looking to tweak the short-term funding bill to appease the holdouts and there’s talk that some Republicans may consider passing some version of a stopgap funding bill with Democratic help.