Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A bloc of far-right House Republicans thwarted a major spending bill pushed by their own leaders on Wednesday, in protest of Speaker Mike Johnson’s move a day earlier to rely on Democrats to push through legislation staving off a government shutdown.

The mutiny in the House, which forced the chamber to adjourn abruptly for the Thanksgiving holiday without completing its work, underscored the difficulties ahead on reaching a governmentwide spending deal early next year. It came even as Congress was poised to avert the immediate crisis.

The Senate could move as early as Wednesday afternoon to clear a temporary spending bill that would extend funding for some federal agencies through Jan. 19 and others through Feb. 2, sending that legislation to President Biden’s desk.

But in the House, right-wing anger about that measure, which passed the chamber on Tuesday evening with near-unanimous Democratic support and substantial G.O.P. opposition, was raw. Members of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus displayed their ire by joining with Democrats to block consideration of a separate bill to fund the Commerce, State and Justice Departments.

It was the latest failure on spending bills under Mr. Johnson, the speaker elected three weeks ago. Like his predecessor, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, he managed to win approval of a temporary spending bill that took the threat of a shutdown off the table. Now, however, he is being punished for it by the far right, which is bent on slashing federal spending and conditioning it on conservative policies.

“The swamp won, and the speaker needs to know that,” said Representative Chip Roy of Texas, one of the Republicans who voted on Tuesday against the interim spending bill and blocked the separate funding measure on Wednesday.

Mr. Roy and 18 other Republicans were able to thwart consideration of the Commerce, State and Justice Department bill by breaking with their party to oppose the normally routine procedural measure to set rules for debate. The tactic was once considered unthinkable, but the hard right has resorted to it several times this year to defy its leaders.

In preventing a shutdown, Mr. Johnson essentially took the same bipartisan path that cost Mr. McCarthy the speakership last month. Mr. Roy and his allies have said they have no intention of challenging Mr. Johnson’s hold on the gavel, but they reserved the right to continue raising procedural obstacles if he does not accommodate their demands.

“We’ve had enough,” said Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “We’re sending a shot across the bow. We do this in good faith. We want to see these bills move. We want to see good, righteous policy, but we’re not going to be part of the failure theater anymore.”

A bloc of politically vulnerable New York Republicans also voted against the rule, saying the underlying bill contained cuts to law enforcement funding that they could not support.

The stopgap bill would give Congress only a few months to resolve its spending differences, with the two deadlines set for early 2024. In the meantime, the House and Senate hope to pass 12 individual spending bills and then resolve their vast disputes over them.

The floor mutiny in the House reflected how remote that prospect is. If Mr. Johnson embraces the deep cuts and policy changes far-right Republicans are demanding, he may lose the support of more mainstream members of his conference and be unable to pass them. And even if he managed to push such measures through the House, they would be all but certain to die in the Democratic-led Senate.

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