The bill would fund the US government past 30 September.
Democrats objected to cuts to a subsidisation programme for electric vehicles. The party’s opposition to the cut was partly expected, yet some Republicans shocked onlookers by voting against the total fiscal cost of the bill.
Republicans said that further cuts were necessary to fund disaster emergency relief linked to Hurricane Irene.
The measure failed by a vote of 195 to 230.
The crisis over America’s self-imposed debt ceiling went right to the wire at the beginning of last month, with politicians agreeing a last minute deal to avoid a default.