Boehner acknowledged the difficulties in cobbling together a majority in the House, caught between tea party fiscal hawks who want to slash government funding at every turn and Democrats eager to exploit Republican division.
“Welcome to my world,” he said of the conundrum.
Boehner’s task now, he said, is to convince his own members that opposing the bill because it includes too much spending actually strengthens the hands of Democrats who want to spend even more.
“They can vote no, but what they’re in essence doing is voting to spend more money. Because that’s exactly what will happen,” he said.
While it is widely expected that the parties will eventually reach a compromise to avoid a shutdown, Wednesday’s 230-to-195 defeat for House Republicans showed what can happen what can happen when the GOP majority operates with no more than minimal Democratic support.
The failure of the bill was the result of a new solidarity among Democrats on funding issues and old divisions among Republicans on spending reductions.
The unexpected breakdown bodes poorly for ongoing budget negotiations between the parties. Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said a week ago that he planned to join with Republicans in support of the measure. Under pressure from his party to show unity, he voted no on Wednesday.
GOP leaders were unable to overcome objections from Democrats who believed the bill did not do enough for disaster victims and from conservative Republicans who wanted to use the measure to cut government spending more deeply.
To pass a bill, House leaders will have to rewrite the measure to appease either Democrats or the more conservative wing of their own party. They must send a bill to the Senate for approval before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Otherwise, the government will shut down.
The temporary measure is necessary because the House and Senate have failed to agree on appropriations bills to fund government for the whole fiscal year. The stopgap is designed to buy time for negotiations to continue when the fiscal year ends.
Boehner and other GOP leaders were confident they could muscle the bill over to the Senate despite protests from both sides of the aisle. But the loss was the latest illustration of how Boehner and his lieutenants simply do not command 218 votes — the magic number for a victory in the House — on even such basic legislative matters as a temporary funding resolution to keep government agencies functioning.
Republican leaders shrugged off the embarassing defeat as an example of their willingness to let the House work its will, something Boehner pledged to do just before he won the speaker’s gavel in November 2010.