With an Oct. 1 shutdown looming, House Republican leaders failed to pass their $826-billion defense bill for a third time in two weeks. Democrats object to its anti-diversity and anti-abortion-travel measures & GOP conservatives who voted against it want deeper cuts in the whole federal budget.
The latest setback on Thursday leaves next year’s Pentagon funding — and plans for any government funding past Sept. 30 — in doubt. If a short-term budget extension or a long-term funding plan is not approved in the next nine days, the appropriations lapse will trigger a partial government shutdown, canceling all non-essential military activities and furloughing hundreds of thousands of federal workers.
The 212-216 failed procedural vote on Thursday included opposition from every chamber Democrat and six Republican lawmakers. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., supported the measure but switched his vote in a procedural move to allow for future reconsideration of the bill.
Democrats have been unified against the spending plan because of amendments within the legislation limiting access to abortion services for troops, prohibitions on diversity training, and provisions they have said would hurt LGBTQ+ service members. President Joe Biden has threatened to veto the legislation.
The five Republicans opposed — Reps. Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Eli Crane of Arizona, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Rosendale of Montana — have not voiced concerns about the military budget plans but against other government spending issues. They want cuts in domestic spending, limits on aid to Ukraine and border security issues addressed before allowing the military bill to advance.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., issued plans this week to address some of those concerns in short-term spending plans to keep government offices open past the end of the month. But GOP leaders in the chamber wanted to advance the defense budget bill — viewed as a common-ground measure for the party members — ahead of that work.
Now, all of the spending plans face an uncertain future. Some Republican lawmakers have threatened to force McCarthy out of his leadership position if he works with Democratic members on a budget compromise. In turn, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has called the plans floated by Republican House leaders so far unworkable and unrealistic.
Former President Donald Trump on social media Wednesday night also attacked McCarthy’s funding plans, saying that Republicans “can and must defund” the Biden administration.
House leaders have said they plan on holding negotiations and votes throughout the weekend in an attempt to break the budget impasse.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.