With a government shutdown just nine days away, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was left with egg on his face again on Thursday as he conceded that far-right saboteurs in his own party were hellbent on “burn[ing] the place down.”
After a nightmare week of being steamrolled by conservative hardliners, and subsequently slammed by fed-up moderates, McCarthy suffered another humiliating defeat when a vote to bring a defense spending bill to the floor failed on Thursday morning.
Funding the Pentagon is usually one of the easiest things for House Republicans to pass, and the vote was, according to Politico, supposed to show that the party has a path to possibly passing a wider spending bill that would avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
That now looks more impossible than ever as McCarthy is left flailing with no viable strategy to avert a shutdown, rapidly vanishing support from his own party, and a clock that is ticking.
What’s worse, he had negotiated for two hours on a modified spending bill late Wednesday, reportedly leading him to be under the impression that the Pentagon bill would pass on Thursday. The modified spending bill would have funded the government until Oct. 31 while lowering previously-proposed increases in funding for government agencies, and including a slate of border security measures.
“It’s frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea, and having the debate, and then you’ve got all the amendments [you want to raise],” he told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. That doesn’t work.”
Among those who tanked Thursday’s vote was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who said she opposed the defense bill over its funding for Ukraine. Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ) said he voted nay because he was trying to “change the way this town works.”
There are still at least nine conservatives who have vowed to kybosh the wider shutdown stopgap bill, chief among them ultraconservative Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who has made no secret of his end goal: getting rid of McCarthy.
“I’m a never [on the spending bill],” he said Wednesday.
Thursday’s disaster has plunged House Republicans even deeper into a nasty civil war that has seen members lobbing insults at each other—and the public left to worry about a potentially calamitous shutdown that would be, in the words of Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA), “mutually assured destruction.”
“We’re pretty frustrated,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) told Politico as he fumed about ultraconservatives once again holding the party hostage on Thursday.
Added Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), “If you can’t do [the defense bill], what can you do?”
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