House defense spending bill delayed amid GOP in-fighting

By Tony Bertuca / September 13, 2023 at 2:08 PM

House GOP leadership has delayed a vote on the fiscal year 2024 defense appropriations bill amid in-fighting over government spending and a looming federal shutdown.

House committee staffers said the first procedural vote on the bill, which is aligned with President Biden’s request for $886 billion in national defense spending, was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today but has been delayed.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the staffers said, has not been able to secure the 218 votes needed for the bill to proceed.

The vote would be for the rule governing debate on the bill, which was passed last night by the House Rules Committee by an 8-5 vote. The bill has been criticized by Democrats and has drawn a veto threat from the White House for its inclusion of controversial “culture war” provisions targeting diversity initiatives, climate change mitigation and the Pentagon’s leave and travel policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

The delay in the defense appropriations vote is part of a larger spending battle that has pit the GOP-led House against the Democrat-led Senate and some Republicans against one another.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who joined Rules Committee Democrats in voting against the rule, said he is ready to support a government shutdown if federal spending continues to increase.

“It's time to call a halt to spending and if the government shuts down, then let's shut it down,” he said. “This government shut us down during COVID. This government is being weaponized.”

The rule adopted by the committee, meanwhile, includes 184 amendments, 103 of which were offered by Republicans, 45 from Democrats and 36 were bipartisan.

Several politically controversial amendments were championed by members of the GOP’s Freedom Caucus. For example, one amendment would prohibit the transfer of U.S. weapons to Ukraine, while another would cut the annual salary of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to $1.

Staffers said a vote on the bill could be quickly rescheduled if House GOP leaders are able to whip enough votes to reach 218.