House conservatives defeated a procedural vote on a Pentagon funding bill Thursday, preventing the legislation from moving forward in the chamber for a second time this week and dealing an embarrassing blow to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the rule for the Pentagon appropriations bill, which was enough to defeat the effort. The final vote was 216-212.
The failed vote marks another disappointment for McCarthy, who has tried to advance the appropriations process — and appease the conference’s right flank — as the end-of-the-month government funding deadline inches closer.
Republican Reps. Dan Bishop (N.C.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Eli Crane (Ariz.) and Tom Cole (Okla.) voted against advancing the bill. Cole flipped his vote to “no” at the last moment, a procedural move that will allow him to bring up the measure later.
The vote — which remained open for more than 35 minutes — made for a dramatic scene on the House floor. Democrats shouted for the vote to remain open when Republicans had a slight edge, signaling that they had more members to weigh in.
The tally was tied at 213-213 for some time, until Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) entered the chamber and voted against the rule — giving Democrats a one-vote margin. Ten minutes later, Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) cast his vote against the rule, bringing the tally to 215-213. Cole then flipped to a “no” and the vote closed.
Votes on rules — which govern debate for legislation — are typically partisan and predictable matters, with the majority party supporting the effort and the minority party opposing it. It is exceedingly rare to see them voted down on the floor.
But the failed vote Thursday comes after conservatives voted down the rule for the same bill Tuesday.
The Speaker set Thursday’s vote after two conservatives who opposed the initial effort to advance the legislation changed their stances, leading McCarthy to believe that he had the votes to move the measure.
Emerging from a closed-door House GOP conference meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday evening, Reps. Ralph Norman (S.C.) and Ken Buck (Colo.) — who opposed the procedural vote Tuesday — said they would vote for the rule when it came to the floor again Thursday.
They initially voted against the rule amid calls for steeper spending cuts and frustration that they had not yet received topline spending levels for all 12 appropriations bills, but flipped after McCarthy pitched the conference on a new proposal for a continuing resolution (CR) that also included a commitment that the remaining fiscal 2024 appropriations bills would be marked up at a topline level of $1.526 trillion.
But Thursday, two other Republicans — Greene and Crane — flipped votes they made on Tuesday and opposed the rule, joining Bishop, Rosendale and Biggs, who had also opposed the procedural vote Tuesday.
Those five were enough to tank the rule and block consideration of the Pentagon appropriations bill.
Crane said he opposed the procedural vote Thursday because his voters “expect me to do everything I possibly can to change the way this town works.”
“There’s nothing that’s going to get me to go back on what I just voted,” he added.
Greene said she opposed the effort because it included funding for Ukraine.
“I just voted NO to the rule for the Defense bill because they refused to take the war money for Ukraine out and put it in a separate bill,” Greene wrote on X.
House GOP leadership has been looking to advance the Pentagon appropriations bill for more than a week.
The House was initially scheduled to hold the procedural vote Sept. 13, but GOP leadership scrapped those plans after some conservatives said they would oppose the effort amid demands for deeper spending cuts.
Over the weekend, however, McCarthy said he would bring the bill to the floor “win or lose, and show the American public who’s for the Department of Defense, who’s for our military, who’s for giving them a pay raise and who’s for making sure we can take the wokeism out.”
But that plan led to another setback for McCarthy: Five hard-line conservatives bucked convention and voted against the rule, which was enough to prevent the legislation from advancing in a 214-212 vote.
Emily Brooks contributed.
Updated at 2 p.m. ET