The House went into a serious stall Thursday afternoon over a $1 trillion spending bill, as leaders tried to find votes from both parties for legislation that only seemed to be getting less popular as the day progressed.
The House held a debate on the bill that finished just after 2 p.m., but then went into recess after it became clear the votes weren't there yet.
Complaints about a $1 trillion bill from Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), forced the House to delay consideration of the bill on Thursday.
Image: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Nearly five hours later, there were no signs of when the House might reconvene, whether it would find the votes, or be forced to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open. Federal funding runs out at the end of the day Thursday, and a government shutdown — which seemed a remote possibility early this week — is possible if no agreement can be reached.
House Democrats met at 6 p.m. to discuss the state of play, and were joined by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who tried to convince Democrats to support the bill. The logic of the White House seemed to be that it would be better to take the bill now, rather than wait for next year when Republicans will run the House and Senate.
The controversial bill split both parties and forced some odd alliances in Washington. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is pushing for the bill, along with President Barack Obama, who wants the surety of a long-term funding bill. Obama was reportedly calling Capitol Hill to help secure votes for the measure. But it was hotly opposed by many conservative Republicans, and Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who oppose the attempt to ease financial regulations.
It's possible this opposition will force leaders to pull the bill from the floor, which would be a victory for GOP and Democratic opponents of the substance, as well as members of both parties who opposed the quick process that forced a vote on legislation no one had time to read.
Republicans have long opposed the bill because it doesn't include language that would defund President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. Some Republicans tried Wednesday night to include that language, but GOP leaders rejected that option, fearing it would only lead to opposition in the Democratic Senate.
That GOP opposition means Republicans needed several Democrats to support the bill. But Democrats were raising their own complaints, such as language that would change a provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that prevents banks from trading derivatives that are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission. That ban was imposed to avoid future taxpayer bailouts of these banks.
Democrats also oppose language allowing both parties to raise more private money for presidential nominating conventions. Several other Democrats raised that as a concern, including Sen. Warren.
The White House sought to shut down Democratic opposition by issuing a statement saying it supports the whole bill, even though it opposes those provisions. But that led Pelosi to fight back, by saying she was "disappointed" that the White House would not fight harder.
Shortly after the House went into recess at about 2:10 p.m., Pelosi said it was clear the votes are not there, and asked Democrats to hold firm and force Republicans to take out that language.
"It is clear from this recess on the floor that the Republicans don't have enough votes to pass the CRomnibus," she said, referring to the spending bill. "This increases our leverage to get two offensive provisions of the bill removed: the bank bailout and big money for campaigns provision."
But removing that language would likely prompt Republicans to seek their own concessions, and it's unclear if that would force the tentative deal to unravel.
Earlier in the day, the House just barely approved a resolution allowing the bill to be debated. It passed 214-212, after GOP leaders had to convince a handful of members to change their votes.
— This story was last updated at 6:57 p.m.