A revolt among progressive Democrats forced House Democratic leaders to scrap a planned Wednesday vote to set the budget for spending this year - an "embarrassing outcome for leadership" as the Washington Post describes it.
The vote was canceled after progressive Democrats objected to top-line numbers, while demanding more money for non-defense spending.
At stake Tuesday was legislation setting overall federal spending levels for domestic and military programs that depend on annual congressional appropriations, including the Pentagon and agencies such as the Education and Health and Human Services departments that affect many Americans. (The bill would not set spending levels for programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that are funded automatically.)
Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were pushing an amendment calling for higher levels of domestic spending. With Republicans expected to unanimously oppose the legislation, leaders could lose only 17 Democrats on the vote, giving the group of lawmakers the power to exact their demands. -Washington Post
"I don’t think we’d have the votes if we went to the floor right now," said Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY), adding "It's not going to happen."
The bill would have increased 2020 defense spending by $17 billion and non-defense spending by $34 billion, bringing the totals to $664 billion for defense and $631 billion for non-defense spending - which progressive Democrats vowed to reject until the two numbers were at parity - demanding an additional $33 billion for non-defense spending.
"If we can’t get full parity then we don’t need a budget cap vote," said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The Blue Dog Democrats, meanwhile, applied pressure to pass the bill as-is.
"Blue dogs have long been committed to fiscal responsibility at a time when we are $22 trillion in debt, in large part [because] of the profligacy of the Republicans and their irresponsible tax bill. Somebody needs to be the adult in the room," said Blue Dog Co-Chair Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), according to The Hill.
Democrats brushed off suggestions that the division within the party reflected an ability to govern.
The House successfully passed a rule Tuesday that would allow appropriators to begin piecing together spending legislation at the cap levels outlined in the spending bill. -The Hill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) anounced on Tuesday that a bipartisan staff-level working group would be established to negotiate a final spending deal. Sources within House Democratic leadership have pointed to McConnell's announcement to justify scrapping Wednesday's vote, per The Hill.
"The Speaker and Leader McConnell are negotiating a caps deal. We'll see what happens with those discussions," said one Democratic aide.
Some progressives - such as Rep. Ro Khanna of California, disagree. "I don’t think this is an issue of divided government, this is an issue of a divided Democratic caucus on issues of defense spending."
The inter-party split has some Democrats worried.
"We’re able to have some differences, but at the end of the day, we have to be able to govern," said Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-MI) who sits on the Budget Committee. "We can’t let ourselves fall off the cliff here."