The Slatest

The House Passed Its Bill to Fund the Government. Now Comes the Real Test.

Rep. Mark Meadows.
Rep. Mark Meadows.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

The House of Representative passed a short-term government funding bill by a vote of 230 to 197 on Thursday night. Though the margin was comfortable in the end, Republican leaders didn’t have the votes to pass it until about an hour before it came to the floor.

Around 5:30 p.m., North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, met with House leaders in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office. (A crucial last-minute meeting to which he was late, because he insisted on doing a CNN appearance beforehand.) After about half an hour, Meadows emerged and said he had a proposition to run by his members, which most of them agreed to.

The deal to which Meadows, and most of the Freedom Caucus, signed on was a pledge from leaders to vote in the near term on a defense appropriations bill alone—i.e., one that would be separate from domestic spending—and on an immigration bill developed by more conservative elements of the House Republican conference. These two amount to show votes, since they wouldn’t go anywhere in the Senate even if they got out of the House. Meadows, when confronted by a reporter with the fact that he mostly secured votes on items that weren’t going anywhere, alluded to other ongoing “subplots” that he wouldn’t get into. When I asked about whether they had secured promises on the upcoming debt ceiling bill, he suggested that might be one of the “subplots” underway. (That fresh hell will be called “March.” We’ll deal with that… later.)

The deal Meadows struck delivered the votes to pass the bill with Republican votes only. Eleven Republicans still voted against it, while six Democrats voted for it, after it was clear that Republicans could pass the measure on their own.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it does not have the votes to pass. Votes could begin as soon as Thursday night, and government funding expires Friday at midnight. There is supposedly no back-up plan, according to Republican leaders in the Senate.