House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that Democrats will not help advance bipartisan spending bills on the floor, signaling that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will have to wrangle his restive conference to open debate on legislation to avert a government shutdown.
The vow from Jeffries comes as members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are openly discussing opposing procedural votes on appropriations bills unless their demands for spending cuts are answered.
“Extreme MAGA Republicans temporarily hold the gavels; the extreme MAGA Republicans are responsible for passing the rule,” Jeffries told reporters when asked if Democrats are willing to support a GOP rule — a procedural measure to set up consideration of a bill — for a bipartisan, Senate-negotiated continuing resolution or appropriations bill.
House Republicans are engaged in a bitter battle over government funding, with leadership trying to keep Washington’s lights on past Sept. 30 — the shutdown deadline — and conservatives pushing for steeper spending cuts.
On Wednesday, House GOP leadership was forced to punt a procedural vote on legislation to fund the Pentagon after conservatives vowed to oppose the rule on the floor over demands for greater spending cuts. Hard-liners said they want to see the top-line figures for all 12 appropriations bills before moving forward with the appropriations process.
“I’m not gonna vote for any bill until I see all 12 top-line figures to see what it comes to,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who planned to oppose the rule, told The Hill on Wednesday.
Rule votes in the House are typically routine, partisan referendums, with the majority party supporting the rule and the minority party voting “no.” The rule governs debate for the bill under consideration. If a rule is voted down, the House is unable to move forward with debate.
Jeffries’s comments Thursday reject any possibility that Democrats will help Republicans begin debate on appropriations bill or a continuing resolution, even if it is bipartisan and negotiated in the Senate — which is what liberals did during the showdown over the debt limit.
In May, a coalition of hard-line conservatives voted against the rule governing debate on the debt limit deal President Biden and McCarthy crafted to avoid an economic default. The conservatives criticized the legislation for not doing enough on cutting spending and reducing the deficit.
In an unexpected turn of events, however, more than 50 Democrats defied traditional partisan behavior on rule votes and supported the procedural vote — which allowed the legislation to advance, be debated on the floor and ultimately pass out of the chamber.
In June, conservatives shut down action on the House floor after voting against a rule governing debate on a handful of bills as a result of their frustrations over the debt limit deal. Democrats did not help Republicans pass the rule, which left the floor stagnant for days.