GOP's House defense spending bill goes down -- again

By Tony Bertuca / September 21, 2023 at 12:10 PM

House Republicans have again failed to advance the fiscal year 2024 defense appropriations bill, with several members of the GOP siding with Democrats to help to sink it by a vote of 212-216.

Today marks the third time in recent days that the House was unable to begin debate on the bill, which would provide $826 billion for the Pentagon, in line with the overall $886 billion for national defense -- which includes funding for other government agencies, like the Energy Department -- sought by President Biden. The House lost a similar vote yesterday and had to pull the bill from consideration last week because it lacked support.

The failure of the measure comes despite previous media coverage saying that Republican lawmakers believed the bill would be successful this time because GOP hardliners had been appeased.

Because Democrats uniformly oppose the bill as they say it is filled with conservative “culture war” provisions, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is having difficulty gaining support from the far-right of his party, has only a slim margin by which legislation can be passed by his own caucus. Thus far, he has been unable to win the support of several Republicans who demand deep cuts to non-defense spending. At least one holdout, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), has said she wants the bill to block military aid for Ukraine.

McCarthy has also been unable to muster the 218 votes required to pass a stopgap continuing resolution required to stave off a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), the ranking member of the House Rules Committee, compared the process to the film “Groundhog Day,” where star Bill Murray is relegated to re-living the same day over and over again.

House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) said he believes the process, though chaotic at the moment, will eventually result in a compromise between House Republicans -- and then between the GOP-led House and Democrat-led Senate -- ultimately bringing both sides together. The government, however, may shutter before that can happen.

Cole noted, however, that “Groundhog Day” had a “happy ending.”

"Everybody learned some lessons and they got where they needed to be,” he said. “I think we may be involved in a process something like that.”