US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to restart his stalled spending agenda failed on Thursday when Republicans for a third time blocked a procedural vote on defence spending, raising the risk of a government shutdown in just 10 days.
The House of Representatives voted 216-212 against beginning debate on an $886 billion defence appropriations bill amid opposition from a small group of hardline conservative Republicans.
It represented a setback for McCarthy the morning after his fractious 221-212 majority met for two-and-a-half hours seeking common ground on legislation to avert the fourth government shutdown in a decade starting on October 1.
As the vote failed, McCarthy told reporters that he would pursue the “same strategy I had from January: just keep working; never give up”.
Federal agencies will begin to shut down on October 1 unless Congress passes either a short-term continuing resolution, known as a CR, or a full-year funding bill. So far House Republicans have failed to unify around either possibility, and the ideas they have considered have only Republican support, making them unlikely to win support in the Democratic-majority Senate or be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
“Instead of decreasing the chance of a shutdown, Speaker McCarthy is actually increasing it by wasting time on extremist proposals that cannot become law in the Senate,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said.
The bill had been scheduled for a five-minute vote that Republicans kept open for over a half hour in a vain hope of winning additional votes.
Republican Representative Keith Self, who had voted to advance the bill, said the motion’s failure showed a lack of trust in McCarthy’s leadership.