Sep 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House passes first GOP spending bills in months as shutdown nears

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

The Republican-controlled House on Thursday passed three annual appropriations bills after a months-long standstill, but Congress is still hurtling toward a government shutdown.

Why it matters: Republicans hope that by coalescing around spending bills they can amass leverage in negotiations with the Senate that will produce the bills actually geared towards keeping the government funded.

What happened: The House passed three out of the four Republican appropriations bills voted on late Thursday night – the first such measures to pass since the August recess.

  • State Department and Foreign Operations: Passed 216-212, with right-wing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and centrist Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) voting with Democrats against the bill.
  • Defense: Passed 218-210, with centrist Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez (D-Wa.) voting with the GOP for the bill and right-wing Reps. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) voting with Democrats against it.
  • Homeland Security: Passed 220-208, with Golden and Gluesenkamp Perez voting with Republicans in favor of the bill.
  • Agriculture and FDA: Failed 191-237, with 27 Republicans voting against it – mostly moderates who oppose language restricting abortion pill access and rural members opposed to spending cuts. 

The intrigue: The House also voted 311-117 to pass a standalone, $300 million supplemental aid package to Ukraine, which also establishes a special inspector general to oversee Ukraine assistance funding.

  • The measure was stripped out of the defense bill to placate Greene, one of the House GOP's staunchest opponents of U.S. assistance to the Ukrainian war effort.
  • In a sign of growing antipathy within the GOP towards Ukraine, more than half of House Republicans voted against it, with more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans voting for it.

What's next: On Friday, the House is expected to move on to trying to pass a party-line Republican measure to temporarily extend federal funding, known as a continuing resolution.

  • However, enough Republicans have ruled out voting for a continuing resolution to make it seemingly impossible for one to pass along party lines.
  • The Senate is trying to advance a bipartisan stopgap bill, but is running into hurdles put up by its conservative members.
  • Given Democratic control of the Senate, any continuing resolution will have to be the product of talks between the two chambers – but that dynamic holds considerable personal risk for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The big picture: A continuing resolution just provides breathing room – for anywhere between a few months to a few days – as both chambers still have a considerable number of actual appropriations bills to pass.

  • House Republicans have passed four out of 12 appropriations bills – the three voted on Thursday, plus military construction and veterans affairs, which passed in July. The Senate hasn't passed any.
  • But the appropriations bills passed by the House are filled with right-wing policy riders and mostly kept spending at 2022 levels; lower than the budget caps set out in both the bipartisan debt ceiling deal and the appropriations bills marked up in the Senate.
  • That leaves the two sides far behind schedule and far apart from each other with little runway — or, in McCarthy's case, leeway — to reach and then pass a deal before Oct. 1.

Go deeper: McCarthy's personal peril intensifies funding fight

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