Ultimately the procedural vote on the $826 billion defense spending bill, known as a rule, failed in a 212-214 vote on Tuesday. Five Republicans defected on the procedural vote, which almost always falls along party lines: Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Ken Buck of Colorado, Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Matt Rosendale of Montana.
Defense hawks decried conservatives, led chiefly by the House Freedom Caucus, who have blocked military funding for the past week. Some military-oriented Republicans urged McCarthy to force a vote on the defense measure even if it was doomed, forcing conservatives to take the blame for holding it up.
Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), an appropriator who has urged leadership to force the issue, called out the five GOP defectors by name and likened their votes to appeasing China.
“They just handed a win to the Chinese Communist Party as a result of this vote,” Garcia told reporters.
“It’s illustrative that we’ve got five clowns that don’t know what they want except attention,” added House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ala.).
The failed vote further scrambles GOP efforts to pass annual government funding bills with less than two weeks until a shutdown.
Even more pressing, a majority of House Republicans can’t agree on a short-term funding patch to keep the government open past Sept. 30.
A partisan stopgap rolled out Sunday that was negotiated by two competing GOP factions — the hard-right Freedom Caucus and the more centrist Main Street Caucus — would fund the government through October. It would slash certain domestic spending while exempting national defense programs. The measure includes harsh border security provisions while excluding new money for Ukraine.
That measure is still well short of the support needed to pass amid the Republican chaos. And it’s unclear what the House can pass with a shutdown looming.
Democrats oppose the Pentagon funding bill, which Republicans loaded with conservative provisions that aim to limit abortion access, medical treatment for transgender troops and diversity efforts. McCarthy can lose just a few votes on that or any bill.
Even if McCarthy can keep his ranks united to pass the bill, it still stands no chance of passing a Democratic-led Senate.
House Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) lamented that the Pentagon bill was being blocked by a faction of right-wing lawmakers who had demanded the bill be written with a variety of conservative social provisions.
“That’s not good legislation. And that’s blackmail,” Cole said. “So hey, if there’s … nothing in this bill you disagree with, tell me why you’re voting no.
“There’s no justification,” he said.
Garcia said he’d spoken to most of the holdouts ahead of the vote. Though he criticized the five defectors for sinking the bill, he predicted Republicans would eventually forge a deal to pass it.
“I think as a conference, we need to lock ourselves in a big room and not come out until we figured out our path forward,” Garcia said. “We need to give people a forum to be heard to air their grievances, like Festivus. We’ll bring in the aluminum pole and everyone can hash it out.”