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McCarthy faces gov’t shutdown after right-wingers go rogue  

By CM Chaney · September 22, 2023

In brief…

  • House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's latest attempt to advance a defense spending bill failed by a 216-212 vote, setting the stage for a partial government shutdown.
  • A group of right-wing Republican rebels led by Rep. Matt Gaetz wants to see progress on separate appropriations bills before supporting any stopgap measures.
  • The rogue faction cited opposition to Ukraine aid as one reason for withholding their support.
  • Former President Trump has encouraged their defiance.
  • Lawmakers will have just 5 days when they return Tuesday to avoid a partial shutdown..
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy lacks the votes to prevent a government shutdown as far-right members of his caucus refuse to drop their demands.  C-SPAN/Wikimedia

The U.S. House of Representatives faces the increasing likelihood of forcing of a partial government shutdown after the latest attempt by Speaker Kevin McCarthy to pass a defense spending bill failed Thursday - and as right-wing members of his caucus refused to compromise.

The 216-212 vote marked the third time the GOP-led House has blocked a procedural vote on the $886 billion defense bill.

With both chambers of Congress out until Tuesday for the Yom Kippur holiday, lawmakers will have just five days upon their return to avoid a partial government shutdown. Federal funding expires Sept. 30.

Despite McCarthy’s optimism Thursday morning, the afternoon vote made clear that a small but determined band of rogue Republican rebels is intent on stymieing his efforts to keep the government open.

Led by McCarthy critic Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the dissidents are demanding progress on individual appropriations bills before supporting any stopgap measure to temporarily extend funding. They spurned a compromise proposal unveiled Sunday that would impose 8% cuts on non-defense spending.

“We should be passing our appropriation bills right now,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene told Fox News. “We’ve wasted an entire week trying to buy four more weeks. That still isn’t enough time, and we’ll be right back in the same situation.”

Former President Trump has encouraged the rebellion, calling on Republicans to “defund all aspects of crooked Joe Biden’s weaponized government.”

House Democrats also oppose the defense bill over provisions prohibiting Pentagon spending on training involving critical race theory, removing the Defense Department’s chief diversity officer, and banning drag shows at military sites, among other culture-war issues.