House GOP wins enough votes to begin defense spending bill debate

By Tony Bertuca / September 27, 2023 at 10:52 AM

House Republicans were able to muster enough votes last night to advance debate on the fiscal year 2024 defense appropriations bill, a goal that had eluded them three times previously.

The House voted 216-212 to begin debate on the bill, which Democrats uniformly oppose and President Biden has threatened to veto because of various “culture war” provisions that target diversity programs, climate change mitigation and the Pentagon’s travel and leave policy for servicemembers seeking abortions. The bill is also likely to fail in the Democrat-led Senate.

House Republicans released a statement today arguing the defense appropriations bill actually “rejects culture wars” because it refocuses the Pentagon on warfighting and away from “partisan, unnecessary initiatives.”

But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had to withdraw the bill from consideration earlier this month and last week lost two votes to advance debate as many members of his caucus refuse to support increases in government spending and additional aid to Ukraine.

It remains to be seen if the defense spending bill can pass the full House, though a vote is expected Thursday.

McCarthy is also having trouble gathering support among his caucus for a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown, saying the House could vote on a GOP-authored CR at the end of the week. Some Republicans have said they would prefer a shutdown to increasing the federal budget.

The Senate last night released a bipartisan CR proposal, but it is unlikely to be supported by many House Republicans as it includes funds for Ukraine and does nothing to slash domestic spending.

The federal government is slated to shut down if Congress cannot agree to a CR by Oct. 1.