House GOP holdouts tank defense funding bill in defiance of McCarthy — again

Six Republicans voted against the procedural motion, known as a rule. One of those votes was House Rules Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who did so to make a motion to reconsider the vote. The other five were: Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Eli Crane of Arizona, Marjorie Taylor Greene or Georgia and Matt Rosendale of Montana.

Five GOP holdouts helped tanked the bill two days earlier. Two of the defectors on Thursday, Crane and Greene, had previously supported leadership this week.

Even if Republicans succeeded on their second try, it would have meant only incremental progress on a bill that stands no chance in the Democratic Senate. The upper chamber has produced its own bipartisan defense bill that sidesteps nearly all of the contentious social issues, such as the House bill’s restrictions on the Pentagon’s abortion access policies, diversity programs and gender-affirming care for transgender troops. President Joe Biden has also threatened to veto the bill.

Closed-door talks between Republicans — which center on how hardline of a spending stance the House should take in a shutdown confrontation with the Senate — aimed to flip enough GOP votes to proceed with the bill on the second try.

As the votes came in on Thursday, GOP leaders held it open in a push to convince holdouts to flip their votes, with the roll call often tied or just one vote down. But the lengthy vote time also allowed several Democrats to get to the House floor and cast their votes against the measure and put Republicans in an even deeper hole.

Congress, meanwhile, is careening toward a shutdown next week, with the House and Senate deeply divided over spending cuts and aid to Ukraine.

Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, likened the scene to “Groundhog Day,” ridiculing Republicans for bringing back the same conservative defense bill with no concrete path forward to prevent a shutdown in just over a week.

“What changed? Not the bill text. Not the fact that we have less than a week before the government shutdown,” McGovern said. “Maybe the minds of a few of our colleagues across the aisle? I guess we’ll see later today.”

Before Thursday’s vote, Cole, tasked with steering the defense bill through the procedural vote, took the reference to the 1993 Bill Murray movie in stride, arguing that the narrow GOP majority was making progress on a must-pass Pentagon funding measure.

“While there [are] some similarities, you know, the movie had a happy ending,” Cole said. “Everybody learned some lessons and they got where they needed to be.”

Defense hawks have also put pressure on GOP dissidents, arguing that denying the Pentagon bill’s passage is tantamount to endorsing Biden’s national security policies.

“Defending the United States of America is not a trivial thing,” Cole said.

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