In an unexpected turn of events, the House of Representatives passed a stopgap spending bill on Saturday, just hours before a potential government shutdown. Democrats provided the necessary votes to pass Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s “clean” bill.
The bill, which extends current levels of government funding for 45 days, was approved in a 335-91 vote. All the votes against the bill came from Republicans affiliated with McCarthy.
McCarthy and other GOP leaders in the House portrayed the passage of the short-term measure as a Republican victory. However, Democratic votes were crucial for its approval, with more Democrats voting in favor of the bill than Republicans.
McCarthy, a Republican from California, stated that he brought forward the clean legislation after exhausting all other options and consulting with every member of the Republican Conference.
“If you have members in your conference that won’t let you vote for appropriations … and won’t vote for a stopgap measure, so the only answer is to shut down and not pay our troops, I don’t want to be a part of that team. I want to be a part of the conservative group that wants to get things done,” said McCarthy after the bill passed.
The passage of the bill sets Congress on course to avoid a partial government shutdown, but it also puts McCarthy at risk of losing his position as speaker.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who leads the arch-conservatives opposing any stopgap spending, has been actively campaigning to oust McCarthy and believes the speaker’s position is vulnerable.
“I would say it’s on some tenuous ground,” commented Gaetz to reporters at the Capitol. “Right now, our plan is to continue to build support for our single-subject spending bills. This 45-day [bill] does not liberate us from our nation’s financial challenges. We remain $33 trillion in debt. We’re facing $2.2 trillion annual deficits.”
When McCarthy introduced the clean bill and challenged Democrats to oppose it, he also welcomed Gaetz’s motion to remove him as speaker.
“If somebody wants to remove [me] because I want to be the adult in the room. Go ahead and try,” stated McCarthy.
The stopgap bill will now move to the Democratic-controlled Senate. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has indicated that he will allow the bill to be fast-tracked for a vote on Saturday.
Previously, Paul had been holding up a quick vote on the Senate Democrats’ version of a temporary spending bill, pushing the vote to Monday, which would have been after the partial shutdown deadline.
The Senate version, put together by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, included $6 billion for Ukraine.
The House bill maintains current funding levels and denies Republicans’ demands for significant spending cuts in the extended spending. It also includes President Biden’s request for $16 billion in emergency disaster funding.
The bill does not provide additional aid for Ukraine’s war effort, which was a point of contention for Democrats. However, when faced with the choice of funding the U.S. government or Ukraine, House Democrats unanimously chose the U.S.
Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of California criticized the bill for not including funds for Ukraine during the floor debate, even though her party unanimously supported it. DeLauro declared, “We don’t abandon our allies.”
McCarthy turned to the clean bill after 21 Republican lawmakers voted against a stopgap bill on Friday that included a 30% cut to domestic spending, as well as GOP-backed immigration policy changes and border security measures.
The lawmakers who opposed the temporary spending bill, many of whom are part of the House Freedom Caucus, pledged to reject any temporary spending measures and insisted on passing the 12 annual spending bills that would fund the federal government for fiscal year 2024, starting on Sunday.
Following the vote, Democratic lawmakers framed McCarthy’s shift as a win for their party.
“For the second time this year, Democrats have saved Speaker McCarthy’s position and once again shown that competence defeats chaos. Today’s Democratic votes, just like lifting the debt ceiling, will keep the government open. An absolute embarrassment for MAGA,” wrote Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California on social media. “We will get Ukraine funding next.”