House GOP Erupts as McCarthy Fails to Move Pentagon Bill – On Thursday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy faced another significant setback when a few conservative members thwarted a crucial vote intended to resolve internal party disputes. In an unexpected turn of events, GOP hardliners once more prevented the party’s defense spending bill from reaching the floor, marking the second time this happened in three days.
This outcome surprised many GOP leaders who had thought they had convinced enough holdouts to support the Pentagon funding bill. Even more forebodingly, the move by the ultraconservatives confirmed the suspicions of many within the GOP: McCarthy lacks the ability to prevent a potential government shutdown scheduled for October 1st. Throughout the party’s conference, House Republicans expressed their anger and frustration.
“This is painful. It gives me a headache. This is a very difficult series of missteps by our conference,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told POLITICO. “If you can’t do [the defense bill], what can you do?” Walking down the steps of the Capitol after the failed vote, battleground Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), too, vented about the hardliners. “At this point, it seems like there are some people playing policy warfare, and I think we need to move our country forward,” he said. “We’re pretty frustrated.”
This setback once more disrupts the upcoming House schedule, casting doubt on McCarthy’s plans for a weekend session, which are now very likely to be canceled. “If we have votes for the rest of this week, I’ll be surprised,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said. The leadership’s initial goal was to pass the defense bill by Friday. Following that, they would either consider a short-term funding bill, which lacks sufficient support to pass the chamber, or pivot to another full-year funding bill with greater backing.
However, at present, McCarthy and his team appear constrained, finding it challenging to introduce any measures for consideration. GOP leaders might consider presenting individual spending bills in the coming week, with the aim of incorporating further reductions as part of a wider strategy to overcome resistance to their short-term spending solution. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told reporters that House Republicans “are very dysfunctional right now.”
“Obviously they can’t count. They’re trying to work something out,” Burchett added of leadership, saying some members still wanted concessions and that “those concessions better be written in stone.” As Republicans departed from the floor following the setback, they openly admitted their uncertainty about the next steps, all while the looming shutdown deadline is just 10 days away.
Just a day before, Republicans had left a private conference meeting with a sense of assurance, believing they had secured enough votes to advance the defense bill. This confidence stemmed from Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) informing leadership that they would change their votes to support advancing the defense bill, thus enabling it to proceed to a full passage vote, despite their previous efforts to block it earlier in the week.
However, Republicans encountered fresh difficulties when Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), who had previously supported the rule earlier in the week, changed their stance on Thursday and opposed it. In contrast, Democrats made significant efforts to minimize their own absenteeism and make the most of the GOP’s slim margin. They went to great lengths to locate missing members during the vote and successfully brought in two tardy lawmakers.
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These efforts are still ongoing, as Democratic leaders are vigorously working to recall additional members, including Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who announced on Tuesday evening that she had tested positive for Covid, as reported by two individuals familiar with the discussions. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) didn’t directly mention Greene or Crane by name but criticized members who were “making inconsistent stands of their own principles.”