House Republicans Make Efforts to Kickstart Spending Agenda through Defense Vote

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will attempt to resume the Republican spending agenda on Thursday with a procedural vote on a fiscal 2024 defense appropriations bill that Republicans have twice failed to advance.

A vote to begin debate on the $886 billion measure is expected in the House of Representatives, following a 2 1/2-hour closed-door meeting among McCarthy’s majority aimed at finding common ground on legislation to prevent a government shutdown in a week and a half.

“We’re going to be voting,” McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday. “I think we’ve got a plan to move forward.”

McCarthy also mentioned that the Republicans were “very close” to a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution (CR) and expressed confidence in advancing other longer-term spending legislation.

To prevent a government shutdown on October 1, the House and the Democratic-led Senate must agree on short- or long-term spending legislation that can be signed into law by President Joe Biden. However, the partisan measures that Republicans hope to pass soon face opposition from Democrats in the Senate and the White House.

The Republican spending agenda had encountered resistance from a small group of Republican hardline conservatives who wanted assurance that fiscal 2024 appropriations would not exceed the $1.47 trillion top line agreed upon by McCarthy and Biden in May 2022, a $120 billion decrease.

On Tuesday, McCarthy had to withdraw a procedural vote on a proposed 30-day CR. Additionally, a vote to initiate floor debate on the defense appropriations bill was unsuccessful. The defense bill had already experienced delays earlier in the month.

The Republican impasse raised concerns about Congress’s ability to keep federal agencies operational when the current funding expires on September 30.

However, McCarthy stated on Wednesday that he had managed to secure support from two out of the five hardliners who had joined Democrats in opposing the defense appropriations bill on Tuesday. With a narrow 221-212 majority, McCarthy cannot afford to lose more than four votes on measures opposed by Democrats.

The two hardliners seemingly changed their positions after McCarthy proposed a 30-day CR that would reduce spending to the 2022 level, according to two sources familiar with the discussion. The CR would feature a commission to address the federal debt and conservative restrictions on immigration and the border.

McCarthy’s proposal would also set a top line for full-year fiscal 2024 spending at just under $1.53 trillion, according to the sources.

It remains uncertain how much support the CR or the 2024 top line will garner from House Republicans.

Nonetheless, McCarthy expressed optimism regarding the CR.

“We’re very close,” he remarked. “I feel like I just need a little more movement there.” 

© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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