House GOP leaders Wednesday punted plans to bring up a Department of Defense appropriations bill amid hardline conservative pressure on overall spending levels that threatened to sink the legislation.
Leaders had planned to bring the rule for the legislation, a procedural vote that outlines the parameters for its consideration, to the floor on Wednesday. By midday, leaders said the first planned vote series would not include that vote — and eventually punted it altogether, canceling a second planned vote series.
Republicans emerged from the House floor saying that there was not a clear path forward as conservatives demand a full plan on spending levels for all the House’s appropriations bills before moving forward on any single spending bill.
The punted rule also included a bill that would prevent states from banning the sale of gas-powered cars. Later on Wednesday, the House Rules Committee convened an emergency hearing to set up a vote on that bill alone without the appropriations funding.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters midday on Wednesday that “they’re just working on it.” But leaving the Capitol on Wednesday, McCarthy expressed frustration with those refusing to support the legislation.
“I haven’t heard anything in the bill that they’re opposed to,” McCarthy told reporters.
Despite the delay on the rule vote on Wednesday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said that “there’s been more conversations today than there’s been in a long time,” crediting the pressure of a possible government shutdown after Sept. 30 with forcing progress in the discussions.
“It’s kind of funny what happens when the pressure is on. It kind of forces people to have to make some tough choices,” Roy said.
Hardline conservatives have been battling with GOP leadership for months over topline spending levels, angered by the funding caps set in the debt limit bill that McCarthy negotiated with President Biden.
After a conservative revolt earlier this year that shut down floor activity over a sunk procedural rule, GOP leaders agreed to draft the spending bills at lower levels than the debt limit bill caps. But the hardliners want even more cuts.
Leaders can only lose a handful of votes on the bill, and a number of hardline conservatives have already lined up against it.
Reps. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday morning that they planned to vote “no” on the procedural vote. Norman voted against sending the rule out of the House Rules Committee late Tuesday night.
The South Carolina Republican said he is opposed to the rule because GOP leadership has not provided conservatives with what the overall top-line figures for all 12 appropriations bills will be, which hard-liners have been pushing for.
“We were supposed to have all 12 [appropriations] bills, the top-line numbers, so we can see what our spending looks like. We didn’t have that,” Norman said.
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) told reporters Wednesday morning “we’ll see” when asked if he will vote against the rule, saying he wants to see top-line figures for all 12 appropriations bills.
The ongoing battles are frustrating House appropriators.
“I’m gonna be really disappointed in our conference if we can’t pass this rule,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a subcommittee chairman in the House Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday morning.
He expressed that disappointment later on Wednesday.
“It says we’re dysfunctional. It says we’re conflicted,” Womack said.
Meanwhile, the Senate has passed appropriations bills at higher levels – setting up another looming clash as the two chambers will have to reconcile the differing versions.
Congressional leaders are also working on negotiating a continuing resolution to fund the government past the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Aris Folley contributed. Updated at 6:32 p.m.