Republican moderates stymie McCarthy on agriculture, FDA bill


House Republicans failed to pass legislation to fund Agriculture, Rural Development and the Food and Drug Administration late Thursday night after more than two dozen moderate Republicans came out against a provision that would limit access to an abortion pill.

The chamber voted down the measure in a 191-237 vote, with 27 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition.

The failed vote marks a setback for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has been working to clear fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills ahead of the Sept. 30 government funding deadline.

Passing the agriculture legislation — or the other 11 appropriations bills — would not help Congress fund the government and avoid a shutdown by Saturday’s midnight deadline, but House GOP leaders are hoping that the consideration of the single-subject funding measures will help sway hardline conservatives to support a stopgap bill to keep the lights on in Washington past the weekend deadline.

Thursday night’s failed vote, however, did not come as a total surprise.

The funding bill was on thin ice Wednesday, when a handful of GOP moderates said they would not support the legislation because it included a provision that would limit access to mifepristone, an abortion pill. The legislation calls for nullifying a Biden administration rule allowing mifepristone to be sold in retail pharmacies and by mail with prescriptions from a certified health care provider.

Reps. Nancy Mace (R – S.C.) Marc Molinaro – R – N.Y. – said on Wednesday that the mifepristone provisions in the bill prevented them from supporting it. Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., told reporters that his position on the bill has not changed. The agriculture funding bill includes a series of cuts to spending that Democrats say will harm the recipients of WIC and other programs. The agriculture funding bill pursues a menu of spending cuts, which Democrats have said would harm recipients of programs like Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).