House Republicans left town for their long August recess on Thursday after passing one government funding bill and abruptly bailing on another, as tensions flared within the GOP conference over spending cuts and abortion.
The House passed a spending bill in a 219-211 vote that would fund the Department of Veterans Affairs and military-construction projects (sometimes known as MilCon-VA). GOP leaders had hoped to also approve another bill that would fund the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, sending GOP lawmakers home on a unified note. But they fell short of securing enough support for the legislation, which would impose hefty cuts to nutrition programs, among other measures.
“The votes aren’t there for the bill because a lot of people have a lot of concerns,” Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., told Semafor, adding he’d been communicating with GOP leaders. He said there were disagreements over proposed spending cuts that go beyond what’s been approved in committees and abortion-related provisions that hardline conservatives are demanding.
The result: Congress is gone for six weeks with less progress than they hoped for on must-pass bills ahead of a potential government shutdown in the fall.
“We have an October 1 problem; we have a January 1 problem,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., a Republican on the House Appropriations panel, referring to a pair of key funding deadlines. “How we address those is gonna be a pretty heavy lift for leadership, as evidenced by the fact that we just lost two Republicans on that last vote. We shouldn’t be losing any.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to find common ground on government funding. “I don’t want the government to shut down,” McCarthy said at a press conference.
The House will next convene on Sept. 12 faced with a time-crunch and a legislative pile-up. At that point, House Republicans still need to pass 11 more spending bills with 12 legislative days left until the Sept. 30 funding deadline to avert a shutdown, and two of them are still bogged down in committee: Labor-HHS-Education and Commerce-Justice-Science.
In the Agriculture-FDA spending bill, conservatives are seeking to include language reversing the FDA’s new rule expanding access to mifepristone, the abortion pill, through the mail and retail locations. Biden-district Republicans in particular are balking at the provision, Politico reported.
Some are starting to suggest that a stopgap funding measure will be needed to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30 while Republicans inch towards a broader funding agreement. “I sincerely hope we get something resolved by Sept. 30,” Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., another Republican on the Appropriations panel, said. “That’s probably going to look like a shorter-term CR.”
The View From The Senate
Senate appropriators on Thursday reached a milestone and passed all 12 appropriations bills out of committee for the first time since 2018. There’s been little of the partisan rancor that’s characterized similar proceedings in the House, and senators seem eager to bring them to the floor.
“My hope is that Leader Schumer will bring a mini-bus of two or three of our bills to the Senate floor immediately upon our return,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations panel, told reporters.