The progress in spending and shutdown talks that House Republicans were touting Wednesday night was revealed to be a mirage by midday Thursday, dealing Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) a blow and keeping the conference in a state of turmoil.
An attempted redo on a Pentagon appropriations bill failed again Thursday. A revamped framework for a GOP-only stopgap to prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1 still faces enough conservative opposition to block it.
And on Thursday GOP leadership sent members home, canceling expected weekend votes while cautioning members to be on call.
The result is a Congress no closer to averting a government shutdown than at the beginning of the week, when the House GOP conference opened with a different promised deal from conservative and more centrist Republicans.
With just nine days to go before a potential shutdown, McCarthy is starting to openly air his frustration with the hard-line conservatives — some of whom have expressed support for trying to oust him.
“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down,” McCarthy told reporters after the failed vote.
“That doesn’t work,” McCarthy said. “Look, I know it’s an obstacle. I find it as a challenge, and we’re gonna solve it.
Thursday’s developments were particularly embarrassing to House leaders.
On Tuesday, a procedural vote on the Pentagon appropriations bill had failed, forcing lawmakers back to the drawing board to overcome conservative opposition.
McCarthy presented a new framework to his conference Wednesday night to pass the Pentagon bill and keep the government open. It received positive reactions and Republicans said they had made progress.
Yet in a vote before noon on Thursday, Republicans refused to move forward, and the GOP was seemingly stuck again.
Five Republicans had voted against a rule vote to advance to the Pentagon bill. Two of them, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Eli Crane (Ariz.), voted “no” on Thursday after voting in favor of advancing the legislation Tuesday. They were joined by Reps. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who also opposed the procedural vote Tuesday.
That was most than enough for the rule vote to fail, even after two other Republicans, Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), voted “yes” on Thursday after voting “no” on Tuesday.
House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) changed his vote to “no” at the last minute, a procedural tactic that will allow him to bring up the measure at a later date.
Greene said she voted against the bill because it would have allowed funds to go to Ukraine. She cast her “no” vote the same day Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with lawmakers in the Capitol.
Crane said that he switched to vote against the bill because his voters “expect me to do everything I possibly can to change the way this town works.”
“There’s nothing that’s going to get me to go back on what I just voted,” Crane said.
McCarthy blamed the failed vote on absences in the chamber: Three Republicans and two Democrats were not present in the chamber to weigh in on the rule.
“For medical purposes we don’t have everybody here; if we had everybody here we would win,” McCarthy told reporters.
The GOP leadership’s new stopgap or continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open is also running into a conservative wall.
GOP leadership scrapped a plan earlier this week to hold a procedural vote on a stopgap funding bill unveiled over the weekend due to conservative opposition.
McCarthy pitched Republicans on a modified plan Wednesday night that seemed to win over some of the hard-liners and give leadership a fresh sense of optimism. Two GOP members previously opposed to the measure said they would back the new one.
But at least nine conservatives have said they will not vote for the new continuing resolution — enough to sink the effort and leave GOP leadership without a clear path forward.
“It’s the new CR; we put a bow on it and given it a new name,” Crane told reporters Thursday. “I mean, it’s the same old nonsense in this town — no, no, no. Not doing it.”
“I’m a never CR,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said Wednesday.
Asked if he is confident that the House GOP conference will coalesce around the CR proposal, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told reporters “there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Increasing pressure on House Republicans to unite around a plan, a coalition of bipartisan members endorsed an escape-hatch proposal Wednesday that would temporarily fend off a funding lapse through the end year and approve Ukraine aid and disaster relief, among other provisions.
The plan, backed by more than 60 members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, additionally calls for the creation of a fiscal commission to explore ways to reduce the debt and border policy changes, as Republicans press for legislation in both areas to be tacked onto any CR deal.
It’s unclear how far the effort will go, as Republicans try to see if they can still work a spending deal among themselves first.
“I think a lot of it just depends on the Republicans, being able to talk to McCarthy,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told The Hill when asked about the prospect of members pursuing procedural moves like a discharge petition to force a vote.
To some moderate Republicans, a bipartisan plan is looking more appealing as the House GOP fails to unify around one plan — a prospect that is being met with pushback from hard-line conservatives who say Republicans involved are undercutting internal efforts to get the conference on the same page.
“That’s switching teams in the middle of the game,” Norman said, calling the idea of some Republicans potentially using a procedural move to get around the conservative roadblock “outrageous.”