Hardline conservatives on Friday tanked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s long-shot bid to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown, in an extraordinary display of defiance that made it clear that Congress would almost certainly miss a midnight deadline Saturday to keep federal funding flowing.
It appeared evident even before the vote that the stop-gap bill was bound to fail, as several hard-Right Republicans had declared that they would not back a temporary spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, under any circumstances. And the measure — which would slash spending and impose severe immigration restrictions — never had a chance of preventing a shutdown, since it was regarded as a nonstarter in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But McCarthy, bracing for the political side effects of a government closure, had scheduled it anyway in hopes of showing he was trying to avoid the crisis. The decision by Right-wing lawmakers to effectively blow up his one final effort to seize some political leverage in the shutdown fight dealt the speaker a stinging defeat while leaving politically vulnerable Republicans fuming.
The size of the group of defectors was striking, reflecting both McCarthy’s weak hold on his conference and the influence of the far right in the House. The bill failed by a vote of 232-198, with 21 Republicans joining all Democrats to oppose it.
From the moment the vote opened, the defections immediately began piling up and continued apace, exceeding even pessimistic predictions as more mainstream Republicans, particularly those from politically competitive districts won by President Joe Biden, glumly watched the tally.
“Every time we vote for a continuing resolution, we make no changes in policy or spending,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, who led the charge against McCarthy’s funding plan. “It’s a vote to continue the status quo.”
Biden condemned the blow-up, as the White House dispatched his top budget official to brief reporters about the economic and national security risks of a shutdown.
“If the House fails to fulfil its most basic function, it fails to fund the government by tomorrow, it will have failed all our troops,” Biden said, speaking at Fort Myer in Virginia.
New York Times News Service