House Republicans are scrounging for their next move after Speaker McCarthy’s latest effort to avoid a government shutdown went up in smoke on Tuesday.
GOP leaders began the day by abandoning their plans to vote on a temporary spending deal negotiated by the Freedom Caucus and Main Street Caucus. The bill, which would have kept the government open an additional month while enacting much of the GOP’s border security agenda, had run into a wall of opposition from party hardliners, who complained about its spending levels among various other issues.
The situation spiraled further toward chaos in the afternoon, when a handful of conservatives tanked a key procedural vote on a defense spending bill, effectively stopping the party’s efforts to enact budget legislation in its tracks. Five Republicans voted no on the measure, including Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Dan Bishop, R-N.C., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
Norman later told reporters that he wanted to see the topline numbers for all 12 government appropriations bills before voting for more spending. That request has frustrated GOP leaders, who argue that hardliners are flip flopping after demanding the House approve government funding bills individually through regular order.
House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers told reporters that the failed defense vote was “illustrative that we’ve got five clowns that don’t know what they want except attention.”
With just 11 days left before the shutdown deadline, it’s unclear what route McCarthy might try next.
One option could involve an amendment from Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., that would temporarily keep the government open at the lower funding levels Republicans included in their party-line debt ceiling bill, which Democrats rejected earlier this year. Though it met some resistance during a GOP conference meeting, Hern told reporters that at least three members currently opposed to a continuing resolution would back his version, and some hardliners voiced interest in it Tuesday.
“I haven’t seen all the fine print, but Kevin is a businessman who understands balancing the budget. He’s done it with McDonald’s,” Norman said. “When he called me, I said I could support that.” (Before coming to Congress, Hern was a major McDonald’s franchise owner.)
Whether more moderate Republicans would embrace the amendment is less obvious. But they may be willing to back it in order to move along the budget process toward a seemingly inevitable compromise with the Senate, much the way some backed the House GOP’s original debt ceiling deal.
“I voted for that for one reason, and one reason only, and that was to get the Speaker to the table with the President,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick told Semafor. “Turned out that that strategy worked because they sat down, they’ve hashed out an agreement, and our country is better for it. So if you have to do something like that, again, you know, I’ll take a look at it.”