House Republicans are growing increasingly angry with their hard-line colleagues who are blocking the chamber from advancing spending bills — a reality that is leading some moderates to consider ditching Republicans and working with Democrats to avoid an end-of-the-month shutdown.
A band of five hard-line conservatives opposed a procedural vote to advance a Pentagon appropriations bill Tuesday, sinking the legislation. Hours earlier, House GOP leadership had scrapped plans to vote on advancing a partisan proposal for a stopgap funding bill amid opposition from the right flank.
“These five or 10 people, they failed us. And I’ll say that publicly,” moderate Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told The Hill Wednesday morning. “They failed us, they failed the conservative cause.”
“They’re gonna push us in the minority unless we intervene,” he added at another point in the conversation.
Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.), a former Navy helicopter pilot, called the behavior from the conservatives “unacceptable and offensive.”
“Today’s actions by five members of my own party — in coordination with every Democrat — are unacceptable and offensive,” Kiggans wrote in a statement, later adding, “This type of government is as irresponsible as it is destructive.”
“Government is not a game,” she said.
Internal frustrations with the conservatives’ posture are becoming more and more acute as the calendar inches closer to the Sept. 30 government shutdown deadline with no viable plan in sight to keep Washington’s lights on.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the more “pragmatic” Main Street Caucus over the weekend announced a proposal for a continuing resolution, which would fund the government through Oct. 31, impose an 8 percent cut across the board except for the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and enact a large part of the House GOP conference’s marquee border bill, H.R. 2.
The conservative plan has been viewed as the House GOP’s opening offer in eventual negotiations with the Senate and White House over averting a shutdown.
But a coalition of hard-liners quickly came out against the legislation, announcing that they would vote against it if it came to the floor, or signaling that they were leaning that way. The opposition was enough to block the legislation, prompting leadership to punt a procedural vote on the measure — a move that angered House Republicans.
The conservative opposition on spending bills and the stopgap bill has annoyed Republicans who represent districts President Biden won in 2020. If hard-liners force a shutdown, those moderates could be painted as members of a party that helped bring Washington to a screeching halt.
The Biden-district Republicans went after the hard-liners in a fiery press conference Tuesday immediately after the Pentagon appropriations bill procedural vote failed on the House floor.
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said those hard-line conservative members are being “obstinate” on the spending issues, adding that there is a lot of frustration with the conservatives.
“We are one half of one third of this government, and we have to work together. We don’t want to be outliers. We want to be team players. But at some point, we have to step up and fight for the American people, and that’s what we intend to do,” Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) said.
A group of military veterans also slammed the GOP rabble-rousers following the Pentagon vote.
“I’m disappointed. I am pissed off,” Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) said. “They just handed a win to the Chinese Communist Party as a result of this vote.”
Angry moderates are starting to take action.
Members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus are working on a plan to avert a shutdown but have as not yet disclosed any details. Bacon, a member of the group, said he was not prepared to talk about it Wednesday morning.
At the same time, Republicans are working on a plan B for a continuing resolution. Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, pitched an amendment to lower the levels in the GOP continuing resolution to match the fiscal 2022 levels laid out in the House Republican Conference’s debt limit bill, dubbed the Limit, Save, Grow Act. Some of the holdouts have suggested they would support that revision, but only if all appropriations bills are crafted at those levels.
Bacon, however, suggested Wednesday that the time has come for Republicans to ditch partisan paths forward and instead look toward an agreement that can garner support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“It would be one thing if you could get 218 to begin with from our group, could’ve done that last month or could’ve done it yesterday. But they’re never able to get to yes,” Bacon said.
“Me and a handful of others think it’s time for a bipartisan solution, and you can’t trust these five or 10 people to support anything,” he later added. “So the right answer has always been all along to go bipartisan because you got to do it anyway with the Senate.”