One hundred fifty one. That's how many House Republicans voted Wednesday night against a short-term spending bill to keep the government open for two months.
In other words, 151 Republicans just voted against funding the government because of something that was contained in the budget — the clear consequence being a shutdown that would have begun Thursday — while just 91 of their colleagues voted to avert the shutdown and to accept what is essentially the status quo.
In even fewer words, more Republicans just voted to draw a line in the sand and allow a government shutdown than voted to avoid one.
That's going to be a problem come December, when the spending bill Congress passed at the last minute Wednesday will run out and Republican leaders must conjure up another way to keep the government open. If Wednesday's vote is any indication, they probably can't count on most members of their own party to help them unless they push for substantive changes — something Democrats have little incentive to accept.
Planned Parenthood was clearly at issue in the vote Wednesday, but it's not clear that all 151 Republicans who voted against the continuing resolution did so because of the controversy over the women's health-care provider. That seemingly intractable fight is led by about 30 conservative House lawmakers and was clearly front and center, but there are plenty of issues related to the spending bill for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to take issue with.
Whatever their reasons for voting no on Wednesday, though, the vote makes clear that there probably is enough opposition within the Republican Party to force GOP leaders to the brink of a government shutdown in December. (And make no mistake: Polling shows Democrats have almost no reason to accept any changes, because Republicans are more likely to be blamed for a shutdown.)
As Chad Pergram of Fox News points out, Wednesday's Republican "yea" tally to keep the government open is pretty close to the number of House Republicans who voted to reopen the government after a two-plus-week shutdown and showdown over the debt ceiling in October 2013.
Only 91 Hse GOPers voted to avoid gov't shutdown. 87 R's voted in Oct '13 to re-open gov't after 16-day shutdown.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) September 30, 2015
This time around, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had some latitude to work with Democrats after announcing his impending resignation. Next time around, it's less clear that the new GOP speaker will feel similarly free to let Democrats carry the vote to keep the government open. And those 151 Republicans are who that new speaker — most likely House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — will have to play ball with.
Add 151 to the mounting evidence that congressional Republicans' schisms are deep and the hurdles to keeping the government open high.