Defense spending bill up in flames amid House GOP conflagration

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A procedural vote to advance the House GOP’s defense spending bill failed 212-214 on the chamber floor on Tuesday after Republican lawmakers butted heads over how to avoid a government shutdown. The result is a blow to Speaker Kevin McCarthy given that the party in power traditionally does as ordered on a ‘rule’ vote that sets the terms for putting the bill on the floor.

Five Republicans voted with Democrats to kill the move, known as a rules vote. This is the second time it’s happened during McCarthy’s tenure – the last time a rules vote failed before that was November 2002. The five Republicans who voted against the rule are Reps. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Dan Bishop, R-N.C., and Ken Buck, R-Colo.

Democrats erupted in cheers as Republicans launched into heated conversations on the House floor.

It’s a symptom of the tensions that have bubbled up to the surface in recent days over how to fund the federal government.

The doomed legislation was one of 12 appropriations bills Congress is working to pass to fund the government for the next fiscal year. If no action is taken on spending by Sept. 30, the government could enter a partial shutdown.

It’s prompted GOP lawmakers to scramble for a deal on a continuing resolution (CR), announced Sunday night by negotiators for the hardline-right House Freedom Caucus and the more pragmatic Main Street Caucus. The short-term deal would fund the government for a month at roughly an 8% cut and includes portions of House Republicans’ border security bill.

But expected opposition to CR by more than a dozen conservatives forced House GOP leaders to delay a vote to advance it on Tuesday. 

A frustrated McCarthy told reporters after the failed procedural vote that the measure tanking makes it ‘harder’ to pass a CR.

‘Ask those five why they voted against it.  Think about what they’re voting against. They’re voting against even bringing the bill up to have a discussion about it to vote on. If you’re opposed to the bill, vote against the bill at the end…You could change it if you don’t like it. But the idea that you vote against a rule, to even bring it up, that makes no sense to me,’ McCarthy said.

Lawmakers were seen entering and exiting House Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s office through the day to hash out their disagreements in a meeting that one member described as ‘passionate.’

‘These disagreements are not flippant,’ said Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., when he emerged from the meeting. ‘There’s no one trying to seek separation within the conference. We have principled differences of opinion and perceptions, and what we believe is righteous is varied from representative to representative.’

One possible path forward offered in the closed-door meeting was an amendment by Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern, R-Okla., which would effectively be his own group’s version of a CR.

It would slash government funding for its month-long duration back to fiscal year 2022 levels and also include the border security bill. One key inclusion, however, is that of eVerify provisions that were not part of the original Sunday night CR proposal, a source told Fox News Digital.

Hern told reporters on Tuesday that three members who opposed the initial CR plan would back it with the inclusion of his amendment.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report

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