© Reuters. U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks with reporters as he walks to the House floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
By David Morgan and Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -House of Representatives Republicans failed to move forward on a fiscal 2024 U.S. defense spending bill on Tuesday, as internal party divisions threatened the ability of Congress to fund the government and avert a partial shutdown at the end of the month.
The Republican-led House voted 214-212 to defeat a rule that would have opened debate on the $886 billion appropriations bill. Five hardline Republican conservatives, who are demanding deep spending cuts, joined Democrats to oppose the measure.
Meanwhile, infighting within House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s fractious Republican majority also prevented lawmakers from agreeing on a short-term measure to keep federal agencies afloat after current funding expires on Sept. 30, the last day of the 2023 fiscal year.
The defense spending bill had to be pulled from consideration a week ago due to opposition from hardliners, who want assurances that fiscal 2024 appropriations will not exceed a 2022 top line of $1.47 trillion, $120 billion below the funding level that McCarthy and President Joe Biden set in May.
The House vote came hours after McCarthy delayed a key procedural vote on the 30-day stopgap measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR.
Speaking to reporters in the U.S. Capitol, McCarthy said the House would consider a vote to open debate on that bill after lawmakers have enough time to reach agreement on the legislation.
The continuing resolution faces opposition from more than a dozen Republican hardline conservatives, enough to block its path forward in the House.
The CR would keep federal agencies afloat until Oct. 31 but cut discretionary spending by about 8% for agencies outside of defense, veterans affairs and disaster relief. It would also impose certain restrictions on immigration and resume construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Republican hardliners who oppose the measure have said it does not go far enough to cut spending and constrain the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden.
The measure also faces stiff opposition from Democrats in both the House and Senate, who have decried its spending cuts and immigration policy changes.