House GOP Fails To Pass Partial Government Funding Bills

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
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Additional reporting by Dylan Scott

House Republicans on Tuesday evening failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass a series of three partial government finding bills.

The three bills — to fund veterans benefits, national parks and the District of Columbia — were designed to increase pressure on Senate Democrats to resolve the government shutdown by making them take politically uncomfortable votes against funding popular government services.

The failure of the three bills — a key portion of the House GOP’s government shutdown strategy that emerged earlier in the day Tuesday — adds additional uncertainty to a way out of the current impasse.

The vote on the veterans affairs bill was 264 to 164, on the District of Columbia bill was 265 to 163, and on the national parks and museums bill was 252 to 176. All three proposals needed a two thirds majority of the chamber to pass.

The failure of the three measures is an ironic twist in Congress’s struggle with funding the government. The votes were designed as a trap for Democrats. House Republicans decided in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday afternoon that they would try to fund the government through piecemeal continuing resolutions.

After the vote, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told TPM that House GOP leadership knew the bills were going to fail.

“We were told that that’s what they were going to do,” Cantor said. “To employ some sort of scorched-earth strategy.”

A House Democratic aide told TPM that their side believes Republicans took the unusual procedural route because otherwise Democrats would have had a chance to put a clean spending bill on the floor, which they believe would pass. House leadership has refused to put a clean bill on the floor.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told TPM that the House would bring the legislation up Wednesday under regular order, which would only require a majority vote.

It’s likely to pass then, but it isn’t going anywhere. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) has already rejected a piecemeal approach to funding the government, and the White House has threatened to veto any piecemeal legislation.

Another House Democratic aide told TPM that Tuesday’s vote and the one coming Wednesday are therefore effectively stall tactics.

“They clearly know this isn’t going anywhere,” the aide said after the vote. “This was solely a face-saving measure because the American people are blaming them for shutting down the government.”

Cantor took the opportunity to blast House Democrats for blocking the votes in his comments to TPM.

“The people who are suffering right now don’t really care about those kinds of games,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is answer the problems where we can agree. I think most people would expect if you have disagreements, set them aside, and do those which you can agree on.”

The failure of the three resolutions are also a defeat for Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), who took credit for the plan earlier on Tuesday, shortly after the House GOP announced that it was moving forward with the proposals.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Lee said he wanted Congress to fund certain parts of the federal government but not Obamacare.

“My plan, in other words, would involve setting up segmented continuing resolutions, appropriations measures that would keep the funding going at current levels to various areas with government,” Lee said during the speech. Let’s leave Obamacare for another day and not hold the vast majority of government functions hostage when the vast majority of government functions don’t have anything to do with the implementation of Obamacare.”

Similarly, Cruz’s office said the votes were rooted in an idea Cruz suggested days earlier. 

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