House conservatives once again blocked a rule governing debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, leaving House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stymied in bringing the $886 billion bill to the floor. The NDAA usually makes it through Congress with ease since it’s chocked full of goodies for individual members’ districts. And votes on rules governing debate on any bill are pro forma — a simple matter of the majority exercising its prerogatives.
But less than a dozen House conservatives have said they won’t allow any House business to go forward. In response, McCarthy sent the chamber into recess, warning members to be “on call” if the situation changes.
That situation may now be in the hands of the Senate, which is probably going to introduce its own Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government running after September 30.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to ask for a cloture vote to bring the House-passed bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to the Senate floor. The FAA funding bill could be used as a vehicle to pass the Senate’s own CR, which would then be sent back to the House, where it would face an uncertain future.
Senate aides say the FAA authorization bill will likely be used as a vehicle to move a clean continuing resolution that would fund the federal government for a few weeks but likely not include money for the war in Ukraine or disaster relief.
Senators will spend next week debating and voting on the legislation in hopes of sending it to the House by Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
House lawmakers left Washington Thursday after GOP leaders canceled weekend votes but advised their colleagues to be on call to return to the Capitol quickly.
McCarthy is trying to avoid another bloody fight for House Speaker that the conservatives who oppose him seem determined to bring about. They are sabotaging every move he tries to make to carry out normal House business. And they are bound and determined to shut down the government to show what budget warriors they are.
It’s the nihilists versus the rest of the right, and many conservatives have just about had enough of the nihilists’ antics.
“This is painful. It gives me a headache. This is a very difficult series of missteps by our conference,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told Politico. “If you can’t do [the defense bill], what can you do?”
The answer is nothing — as long as the nihilists hold the whip hand.
Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), too, criticized the nihilists. “At this point, it seems like there are some people playing policy warfare, and I think we need to move our country forward,” he said. “We’re pretty frustrated.”
Indeed, at a meeting on Wednesday night of the entire caucus, the rest of the caucus had come to a meeting of the minds and agreed to an outline of a CR. It did no good.
During that meeting, Republicans had largely agreed on the rough outlines of a CR that would slash topline government funding well below the levels McCarthy and President Joe Biden agreed to last summer during high-stakes debt ceiling talks.
That bill would also likely contain a number of poison-pill policy riders such as border security measures, while providing no emergency funding for Ukraine — a key White House demand.
But whether such a bill could pass the House on a party-line vote was far from certain Thursday. Already, more Republicans than would be needed to sink it have publicly announced their opposition.
It’s a dead certainty that Speaker McCarthy is going to have to ask House Democrats for a dozen or so votes to pass a CR. That means it’s not going to be anywhere near what the nihilists want. So in the end, their tantrums will yield them nothing.