The floor of the House of Representatives devolved into chaos on Tuesday afternoon as a vote to advance the annual defence bill failed.
House Democrats began to taunt Republicans shouting by “regular order” as five Republicans joined them in opposing a rule to pass the annual defence spending bill as House Republican leadership tried to have their ranks coalesce. GOP Reps Dan Bishop, Matt Rosendale, Ken Buck, Andy Biggs and Ralph Norman opposed the rule. Four Republicans did not vote on the bill.
All five members are part of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus that has demanded spending cuts across the board. Each of the members also voted against raising the debt limit.
The vote comes as House Republicans are currently split on how to pass a bill to keep the government open by the 30 September deadline. Various factions within the GOP are currently negotiating a continuing resolution to keep the government open as talks continue.
“We need a topline number so we can get the country back on track,” Mr Norman told The Independent as he walked into House Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s office in the Capitol.
Republicans who served in the military lambasted the action.
“What we just witnessed was a conservative Republican Party, frankly, look and behave like the minority instead of the majority,” GOP Rep Mike Garcia told reporters on the House floor steps. “What we just saw were five individuals vote against a rule to bring to the floor for a vote. The most conservative [Department of Defense] bill in modern history.”
Specifically, he noted how the defence bill would raise the pay of US servicemembers and roll back policies from the Biden administration. Mr Garcia accused the five Republicans of strengthening the hand of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“And what we just saw with these five individuals, was them adding effectively their name to that list that are enabling Chairman Xi right now who's looking at this with a with a sigh of relief that we didn't just get this DoD package to the floor,” he said. “I'm disappointed. I am pissed off.”
GOP Rep Derrick Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL, told reporters the problem was not the House Republican conference but rather the five individual members who opposed the motion.
“There's five individual members of the Republican conference that are solely responsible for this happening,” he said. “There's five of them. And let's just remember that it's time for some truth-telling people.”
Democrats said the breakdown was indicative of Republican governance.
“It's dysfunctional governance,” Rep Jamaal Bowman told The Independent. “And while they waste time and we waste time, people are dying in our streets every day, struggling and suffering while they play circus games. So frustrating.”
Rep Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat on the House select committee on China, said the vote posed a national security risk.
“I think the only people who are relishing what's going on are maybe certain extreme members of the Freedom Caucus. And then Xi Jinping and China and Vladimir Putin and some of our adversaries,” he said. “It's exactly the dysfunction and chaos that they like to see in America and we just, we're playing right into their hands.”
Mr Norman said he was confident that there could be some sort of agreement.
“We’ve got 11 more days left,” he said.