(Bloomberg) -- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s latest plan to avert a government shutdown was ambushed Thursday by a pair of ultraconservatives, ratcheting up the risk of an Oct. 1 federal funding lapse with Republicans still fighting among themselves.
Hours later, McCarthy sent lawmakers home until Tuesday, a decision that leaves little time to negotiate with Senate Democrats. Republican leaders said they would give “ample notice” if they called a vote before then.
Two GOP dissidents — Marjorie Taylor Greene, once a reliable McCarthy ally, and Eli Crane — surprised McCarthy by voting against bringing up a defense spending bill on Thursday. Greene said she opposed the inclusion of $300 million in Ukraine aid — a move that caught the speaker by surprise.
“Two people flipped so I got to figure out how to fix that,” McCarthy told reporters after the vote, which was his third attempt to bring the typically popular defense bill to the floor. “That wasn’t the impression they had given us.”
McCarthy is trying to drum up support among Republicans for a 31-day stopgap to prevent an Oct. 1 shutdown, as well as bolstering backing for longer-term spending bills. He continues to tweak them to address conservative demands and said early Thursday he’d achieved a “breakthrough” on the defense bill.
“This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down,” McCarthy said afterward.
The vote marks McCarthy’s latest failure to win over crucial members of his right flank. Greene said in a post on X, the platform formerly know as Twitter, that she changed her vote to get leaders to strip out the Ukraine aid, even though she voted “yes” two days earlier.
Outside the Capitol, Greene suggested McCarthy shouldn’t have been surprised by her vote.
“I’ve told him everything that I’ve told everybody else,” Greene told reporters. “I’m completely transparent in every conversation I have.”
Democrats took political satisfaction in McCarthy’s floundering and urged him to cut a bipartisan deal with them sooner rather than later. House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries equated it to a “Republican civil war.”
Former speaker Nancy Pelosi, who imposed iron-clad control of the House floor, said she had never seen any of her bills blocked on the floor like what had just happened to McCarthy.
“Not one. We weren’t into that,” she said. “I’m not into surprises.”
The failed Defense bill vote bodes ill for McCarthy’s plans to pass on Saturday a 31-day short-term spending bill. Even if the speaker can squeak that measure through, it is dead in the Senate because it includes an estimated 30% temporary cut to domestic agencies and immigration law changes.
--With assistance from Billy House.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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