House Republicans failed for a second time to pass a procedural vote that would allow consideration of the $826 billion defense appropriations bill by the full chamber.
The Sept. 21 setback comes amid a bitter battle over spending among House Republicans, just nine days ahead of a potential government shutdown.
For hardliners in the Republican caucus, the defense bill itself isn't the issue. They're attempting to hold House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to a limit of $1.471 trillion in total discretionary spending for fiscal year 2024.
Defense spending comprises the lion's share of U.S. discretionary spending.
Hardliners don't want to approve any spending until they're assured that all 12 appropriations bills will be considered under "regular order," meaning that each bill is considered separately with an opportunity for members to debate it and offer amendments.
Republicans held a closed-door meeting late on Sept. 20, attempting to iron out their differences, and appeared to make headway, according to some members.
"We made a lot of progress on it," Rep. Ralph Norman (R-N.C.) told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Norman had opposed the measure when it was first presented on Sept. 19.
"I agreed to vote for the rule for DOD [Department of Defense]. I agreed to vote for the rule on [the] floor when it comes to the final vote," he said.
"I think what you'll see now is a rapid movement to get the 12 [appropriations bills through]. We've been pushing for a long time to get regular order. We're going to do that."
Republicans were aiming to get the appropriations measures approved by Sept. 30, the last day of the fiscal year.
The apparent solution brokered among House Republicans by Mr. McCarthy fell apart on the House floor when Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) joined Democrats in preventing the defense appropriations bill from coming to a vote.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the House Rules Committee, voted "no" after it was apparent that the measure would fail in a procedural move that would allow him to present the bill for a third time.
Ms. Greene hinted on the evening before the vote that the procedural move could face trouble.
"We still don't have an agreement on a [continuing resolution]. We still don't have the number of votes to get it," she said, referring to a proposed extension of current spending levels through Oct. 31 accompanied by some spending cuts.
"We're only buying 30 days, and we have 11 [more] appropriations bills. I'll fight for a plan that will work. I haven't seen one yet. So that's where I'm at. I still have my red lines."
House Democrats reacted sharply to the seeming disarray among Republicans.
“I don’t know what happens over there, but we have to get it together for the American people,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The Epoch Times moments after the vote.
However, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) earlier cast the vote as part of the democratic process, which he said is necessary for allowing members to express their positions.
"I think the conference was really productive," Mr. Donalds told The Epoch Times on the evening of Sept. 20.
"We still have a lot of work to do. There's some members who, we've got to see where they are. We are a majoritarian body ... members have got to vote."
In the absence of new spending authorization by Congress, the federal government will shut down after the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The Senate has also made slow progress in passing appropriations bills.
“Here we are, nine days before the end of the fiscal year. We haven't even moved a single Senate bill either. So I don't think it's fair to just point fingers at the House,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on Sept. 20.
Senators are reticent to comment about happenings in the House, and vice versa.
Yet, Mr. Cornyn indirectly mentioned the logjam in the House.
“I dare say there's nothing the Senate could send to the House that would have a prayer of passage at this point. So my preference is to wait so the House can send us something.
"I think that’s how this conversation needs to proceed.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said the idea of a government shutdown is an anathema to Missourians.
“My view is that there is no reason for a shutdown,” the Missouri Republican told reporters. "I don't think it's good strategy. I don't think it's good for people. We don't believe in them in Missouri. Our Constitution doesn't allow them.
“So my view is, let's stop this talk about shutdowns and just get it done.”