The House passed its first fiscal 2024 spending bill Thursday, funding veterans benefits and military construction projects, by a razor-thin margin along party lines that signaled a troubled road ahead for the appropriations process.
The $317.4 billion Military Construction-VA bill, usually considered the least controversial of the 12 annual spending measures, passed on a 219-211 vote. Democrats marched in lockstep against the bill, saying it was chock-full of extremist policy riders and would cut military housing money needed by troops and their families.
And in another sign of trouble, House GOP leaders abandoned plans to take up their $25.3 billion Agriculture bill this week after the party’s hard-right faction demanded more spending cuts. Instead, the House was preparing to leave town Thursday afternoon for the long August recess having passed only one of the 12 bills needed by Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.
After the Military-Construction-VA bill passed, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., announced on the floor that Friday votes would be canceled and the chamber would start its August recess after the last Thursday afternoon vote series.
Minority Whip Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., said it was irresponsible to leave town without taking up additional spending bills.
“Now the Republican conference is saying they are sending us home for six weeks without funding the government? That we have one bill, one bill out of 12 completed, because extremists are holding your conference hostage,” Clark said to applause from her Democratic colleagues. “We will have 12 days when we return to fund the government. … This is a reckless march to a MAGA shutdown.”
Scalise replied that negotiations would continue during the August recess “to make sure we get back to funding the priorities of the nation.”