House Republicans pulled their annual financial services and general government funding bill Thursday amid divisions on abortion-related provisions and FBI funding.
It was the second time in a week GOP leaders opted to punt a vote on a funding bill over divisions within the party.
GOP leadership hoped to pass the conference’s partisan plan laying out fiscal 2024 funding for the White House, the Treasury Department and other offices this week. But a planned vote was pulled at the last minute Thursday as the conference struggled to unify behind the measure.
Some moderate Republicans came out in opposition against language seeking to prohibit Washington, D.C., from carrying out a law that aims to protect people from employer discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions.
“I think that we need to be much more respectful of the difficult decision that women have to make,” Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) said of the thorny policy rider Wednesday. “I think we need to respect the city’s determination, and I think it’s a provision that is unnecessary in the bill.”
He told reporters shortly ahead of the planned vote Thursday that he was prepared to vote against the measure and suggested “there’s probably about five to eight of us that have expressed a concern regarding the one provision being placed in the bill.”
In the House Republicans’ narrow majority, just a handful of members can sink any partisan bill.
The bill has also faced opposition from the right flank amid scrutiny of the FBI, as some conservatives have accused the agency of political weaponization.
An amendment pushed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) earlier this week sought to bar funding from being used “for the acquisition of property” for a new FBI headquarters.
“I don’t believe that the FBI deserves a massive new headquarters or Washington field office,” he said, while accusing the agency of working to “censor factual information harmful to their preferred political candidates.”
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who heads the subcommittee that crafted the bill, pushed back on Gaetz’s criticism at the time, saying, “it is bad policy for the Congress to be taking steps to deny a federal agency that is in serious need, in my opinion, of an improvement to their headquarters.”
“Notice I said improvement,” Womack said on the floor. “I didn’t say some massive big expansion, necessarily. But what I do know is that when I toured the FBI headquarters, I saw it in a state of disrepair that is going to need the attention of the owners of that property. And that’s us.”
But other conservatives are still critical of FBI funding. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) signaled he was a part of that camp in remarks to reporters Thursday, while saying he also planned to vote against the bill.
“FBI was a big deal. I raised that on the floor with Womack. It’s in disrepair. Well, the FBI is in disrepair as well,” he said, adding the bill didn’t go far enough to cut spending.
“I mean, we’re just nibbling around the edges,” Norman said, telling The Hill that the public is “tired of just going around in circles, and [if] we’re not going to cut, let’s just tell the American people we’re going bankrupt.”
The bill is among the 12 annual government funding bills House Republicans sought to pass this month as they look to strengthen their hand in spending talks with Senate Democrats later this year.
Like a chunk of the proposals, the bill considered Thursday seeks to cut spending partly by rolling back funding for Democratic priorities approved in the previous Congress, with a previous legislative summary detailing a pitch for clawing back billions of dollars in IRS funding.
Republicans have defended the cuts, pointing to the rising national debt and inflation, and hard-line conservatives are pressing for further reductions to spending.
But Democrats have panned the proposed cuts to nondefense programs for going beyond a budget caps deal brokered between President Biden and House GOP leadership earlier this year, along with policy riders they call “poison pills.”
House Republicans are looking to stake out what they’ve described as the most conservative starting point before negotiations ramp up with the Democratic-led Senate. But the approach has also made it difficult for House Republicans to pass the legislation with a narrow majority.
“We don’t have the Democrats voting for it, because the bills are so conservative,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), another spending cardinal, said Thursday. But he also discussed the insufficient GOP support behind the plan.
“They have the right to do that,” he said. “But it’s unfortunate because then we just lose leverage.”
Earlier this week, House Republicans punted plans to vote on a housing and transportation government funding bill over concerns from some in the party about a proposed drop in dollars for Amtrak.
Mychael Schnell contributed to this report.
Updated at 12:07 p.m. ET