Sep 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House GOP pulls another vote as spending fight rages on

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

House Republicans are once again scrambling to salvage a desperate effort to temporarily stave off a government shutdown.

Why it matters: With federal funding set to run out on Sept. 30, the House pulled a planned Tuesday vote to advance a spending bill that would keep the government funded for another 30 days — and give lawmakers more time to negotiate.

  • It's the third instance in as many months that Republicans have had to pull a spending bill due to internal opposition, mostly from the right flank.

Details: More than a dozen Republicans, mostly hardliners, planned to vote against the stopgap bill, which would cut most non-defense discretionary spending by 8% and institute some Trump-era border policies.

  • Some GOP lawmakers are increasingly pushing for a vote on anything. "Everybody needs to show their hand," Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said.
  • The House is still scheduled to vote on Tuesday to advance a bill to fund the Department of Defense, which was similarly pulled last week.

What we're hearing: Several House Republicans, emerging from a closed-door GOP conference meeting on Tuesday morning, predicted that the short-term funding bill will be tweaked to pacify conservative holdouts.

  • Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), one of the conservatives who negotiated the bill, said it was just a "proposal," and "of course" it could be subject to change.
  • "It's clear that this ... deal is going to have to change," said a source who was in the meeting.

Zoom in: Some groups of lawmakers are looking at alternative proposals to break the logjam.

  • Several right-wing Freedom Caucus members, including Perry, floated a bill that cuts spending to 2022 levels – which is similar to the proposal being drafted by the conservative Republican Study Committee.
  • The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, meanwhile, is discussing a short-term spending bill that could bypass conservatives by garnering Democratic votes, according to two members of the group.
  • One Problem Solvers member told Axios that bill would be rolled out when the "failure of the [proposed Republican bill] is imminent."

One significant problem for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is an apparent belief among some on the right that a shutdown is a preferable alternative to passing inadequate spending bills.

  • "I don't know what 30 days is going to give us," said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a Freedom Caucus member, arguing that the right needs to push hard for more drastic spending cuts.
  • "Will it take a couple weeks of shutdown? Probably so. That's a fight we need to be willing to have right now," he said. "The odds of not having a shutdown are slim-to-none."

The other side: Establishment Republicans are growing increasingly frustrated towards the intransigence of their right-wing colleagues.

  • Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) stood up during the GOP conference meeting and asked conservatives to clarify their objections to the stopgap bill. "The problems, I think, are more figments of their delusion," he told reporters.
  • "Some people would vote against the Bible because there is not enough Jesus in it," said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

The bottom line: "It's going to be dicey. It's going to be interesting," said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a top McCarthy ally. "We'll figure it out."

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