House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) attempt Tuesday to advance a bill funding the Department of Defense failed after a few Republican defectors voted against their party.
Why it matters: It’s a highly visible defeat for McCarthy as he tries to unify Republicans around spending proposals to strengthen the House GOP’s hand in budget negotiations with the Senate.
Driving the news: The procedural measure to advance the bill to a final vote — a hurdle normally decided along party lines — failed 212-214, despite Republicans having the majority.
All 209 Democrats present voted against the bill, which was loaded with right-wing policy riders restricting abortion access, transgender medical care, diversity and inclusion programs and affirmative action in the military.
Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.)) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) — all members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus — voted against the measure as well.
What they’re saying: Norman and Biggs told Axios their votes were geared toward forcing Republican leadership to provide clarity on the total spending levels of all 12 GOP appropriations bills.
“They’re throwing one bill out that they’ve plussed up, and we don’t even know what the top-line numbers for the entire package” are, Biggs said. “They should be holding stuff back until we all know what the top line is.”
“I want to have a real numbers. I don’t want smoke and mirrors,” Norman said.
The big picture: House Republicans have passed just one of the 12 appropriations bills so far, just two weeks before federal funding runs out on Sept. 30.
Leadership has had to pull votes on three spending bills — including the defense bill last week — because of persistent opposition from the right.
Some House Republicans have expressed concerns that without unity around conservative spending proposals, they’ll be steamrolled in negotiations with the Democrat-led Senate.
The other side: Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), an old guard member of the House Appropriations Committee who has publicly bristled at the right’s maneuvers on spending, told Axios the vote outcome is “frustrating as hell.”
“I think there are some people who think that it’s their way or the highway, and there’s no way to solve these problems except for what they advocate,” Simpson said.
“I don’t think any of them have voted for an appropriations bill in their lives.”
What’s next: The decision to allow the bill to fail on the floor marks a shift in the Republican leadership’s strategy for breaking the spending impasse.
McCarthy told reporters after the vote: “We’ll keep voting on [appropriations] bills, whether they pass them or not.”