Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appeared to capitulate for the second time in as many weeks on Tuesday, scratching a procedural vote on a spending bill after his party descended into full-on open warfare.
The short-term stopgap bill to fund the government through Oct. 31 was negotiated by leaders from across the party and was supposed to be McCarthy’s big show of unity. Instead, it descended into a nasty, public spat Monday when at least 16 Republicans pulled their support and trashed their colleagues in the process.
“It’s an unmitigated disaster right now on the majority side,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) told MSNBC on Monday as the bill unraveled in real time.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who opposed the bill’s continued funding of the office of Trump prosecutor Jack Smith, took potshots online at one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), who shot back, “You’ll need more than tweets and hot takes!!” Meanwhile, The Hill reported that Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) blamed “weak Speaker” McCarthy, who hit back by calling Spartz a quitter for deciding to retire at the end of her term to spend more time with her family. Gaetz called McCarthy’s response “disgraceful.”
With the bill likely doomed just 11 days out from a shutdown, and his speakership looking increasingly shaky, McCarthy pulled a scheduled 2:30 p.m. Tuesday vote that would have allowed the so-called continuing resolution proposal to move forward.
He left open the possibility of pressing ahead with a vote later in the week. “I’m just recircling it,” he insisted to reporters, “We have people talking together.”
But it comes just a week after McCarthy caved to far-right pressure by unilaterally opening an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, just another chapter in what Politico called “ultraconservative fever gripping House Republicans.”
It’s also the third time Republicans have had to pull a spending bill in as many months due to in-fighting largely fanned by hardline flame-throwers.
“Put me in the very unhappy column today,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) fumed to Fox News on Tuesday when asked if she was happy with the job McCarthy was doing.
“The conference is still heavily divided,” Womack added, according to Politico. “I think there are personality conflicts at work involving certain members and the speaker. And this is coming down to a situation where they want to fight the speaker.”
Chief among those “certain members” is Gaetz, who had made no secret of his ultimate goal of pushing McCarthy out of the speaker’s chair.
“We will likely have to endure some degree of a shutdown,” he said Tuesday as he vowed to do everything possible to defeat the continuing resolution.
The proposed stopgap bill would have funded the government until Oct. 31 while cutting federal spending in all departments bar Defense and Veterans Affairs by 8 percent, and restoring a border crackdown bill passed earlier this year. The 16 holdouts objected to various aspects, particularly the smaller-than-desired cuts to spending levels.
“I find it extremely difficult to explain or defend opposition to an 8 percent cut over 30 days in exchange for the most conservative and strong border security measure we’ve ever passed out of this body,” one of the bill’s authors, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), said, according to The Hill. “I think that is inexplicable. I think it’s malpractice.”
The party tried to hash out a way forward in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday but even that was waylaid by in-fighting, according to reports. Lawmakers reportedly lined up to ream their colleagues for sabotaging the proposal without presenting better alternatives.
Gaetz simply shrugged as he left the room, saying, “More of the same.”
While McCarthy dared his colleagues last week to “fucking try” removing him from the speakership, he’s now left trapped between emboldened ultraconservatives and moderate members who appear fed up with constantly catering to their hardcore conservative colleagues.