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House GOP punts labor, health bill amid Republican infighting

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Another House Republican spending bill hit the skids Wednesday, as the chamber punted legislation to fund the departments of Labor, Health and Education until after the Thanksgiving break thanks to opposition from within their own party.

After voting on dozens of amendments to the Labor-HHS bill Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, GOP leadership announced they would not move forward on the bill itself.

“People want to get out of here, and they’d like to get out sooner rather than later,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) the vice chair of the appropriations committee, told POLITICO. He added that had the vote gone forward, Republicans would have “lost a lot of votes.”

“The cuts are really big,” he noted. “It’s hard to move.”

It’s the latest setback for Republicans’ attempt to pass all 12 appropriations bills in the coming weeks. Bills to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Housing, Transportation and the Food and Drug Administration met a similar fate after it became clear they didn’t have enough GOP votes to pass.

Speaker Mike Johnson and his allies, including several committee chairs, unsuccessfully lobbied Republicans this week to rally behind the Labor-HHS bill, arguing that another faceplant would raise the likelihood of getting jammed by Senate Democrats at the end of the year.

“If we want to afford to avoid an omnibus, we’ve got to pass our appropriations bills,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said Tuesday. “This is truly a unique opportunity and people ought to take it.”

Freedom Caucus members who huddled with Johnson on the floor on Tuesday — including Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) — told POLITICO the new speaker asked them for “a little grace” and to trust his “plan to actually cut spending” by passing staunchly conservative spending bills that they can use as leverage in negotiations with the Senate.

But a handful of GOP holdouts from the more moderate side of the caucus were unconvinced.

“I represent my district and they don’t like that bill. So I would have voted against it,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) told POLITICO, citing the bill’s “cuts across the board on it in a number of areas that I care about” and anti-abortion provisions that “have no place in any of these bills — zero.”

Fitzpatrick also rejected Johnson’s argument that passing the Labor-HHS bill would give Republicans more negotiating power down the line.

“You can’t pass a single-party bill here and expect it to navigate 60 votes in the Senate. It’s not real,” he said.