U.S. House conservatives balk at short-term funding patch that would avert shutdown

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Athens, Georgia speaks at a House Freedom Caucus press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. Ariana Figueroa/States Newsroom

WASHINGTON — The most conservative Republicans in the U.S. House announced Tuesday they won’t support the short-term spending bill that’s needed to stop a partial government shutdown from beginning on Oct. 1.

Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, said the group is not interested in a stopgap spending bill that “continues the policies and the spending of the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi era and we’re not going to vote for it.”

“The power of the purse is in the legislature. The way you stop all this craziness of the Biden administration — the tyranny of the Biden administration — is to stop giving them money,” Perry said during a press conference just outside the Capitol building.

The caucus does not disclose its membership numbers, but nine House members spoke at a press conference outside the Capitol. GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado was also in attendance.

The GOP-controlled House passed one of its dozen annual government funding bills before going on a six-week break throughout August. The Senate began debate on a three-bill package Tuesday.

That means the process of appropriating funds won’t be completed in time and a short-term stopgap spending bill is necessary if Congress is going to avoid a partial government shutdown.  

The House is scheduled to take up a second spending bill, the Defense funding measure, later this week, though Perry indicated the group may not support its passage.

“The Republican Party always wants to defend the nation and always wants to support our military,” Perry said. “But what we’re not going to do is say that we’re going to pass things without knowing what the plan is; and knowing that it leads to the increased spending that is crippling our citizens.”

“We’re not going to do that. So we’re going to have to see the whole plan, is the point,” Perry added.

The short-term spending bill could pass the House without Freedom Caucus support, if the legislation has the backing of Democrats.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said during a press conference later Tuesday that Democrats have not had any discussions about filing a petition, known as a motion to discharge, which would force a vote on spending bills.

Jeffries, of New York, said that far-right Republicans “are determined to shut the government down, crash the economy or alternatively, jam their right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people.”

“We will not be paying any right-wing ransom notes,” he said. “It’s not happening.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday that “one of the top Senate priorities” this month is avoiding a government shutdown.

“Both parties in both chambers are going to have to work together in a bipartisan way to avoid a shutdown,” Schumer said. “It may not be obvious to 30 crazy people on the far right of the Republican House, but it’s obvious to everyone else. They can’t just have it their way.”

Schumer “implored” Republicans to “recognize that time is short” and that “the only way to avoid a shutdown is through bipartisanship.”

Spending mess

Congress is supposed to pass 12 government funding bills annually before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1. But lawmakers haven’t completed all of their work on time since the last century.

So every September, congressional leaders draft a stopgap spending bill that’s often referred to as a continuing resolution, or CR. That short-term government funding bill extends current funding levels and policy, usually until mid-December.

That is intended to give the House and Senate a couple more months to work out a final agreement on the dozen annual spending bills that fund much of the federal government.

If Congress cannot agree to either a short-term spending bill, or pass all dozen of its full-year spending bills, then a partial government shutdown would begin.

During a funding lapse, federal employees in the so-called “exempt” category continue working without pay, while “non-exempt” federal workers are sent home, also without a paycheck.

When the funding lapse ends, Congress typically approves back pay for all federal employees, though not contractors.

Freedom Caucus members at Tuesday’s press conference said there are several steps they want GOP leaders to take on government funding, including adding a border security bill that couldn’t get through the Democratically controlled Senate on its own.

North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop expressed frustration that House leaders are likely to call on members to pass a “clean” stopgap spending bill. That term generally refers to short-term spending bills that don’t include many additional, or unrelated, provisions.

“The opportunity to negotiate on behalf of the American people arrives again right now. And leadership means seizing that opportunity and doing something for the American people,” Bishop said.

Debt limit deal

The debt limit agreement brokered between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden included total spending levels for the fiscal year slated to begin on Oct. 1.

Spending on defense was set at $886 billion with spending on non defense accounts at $704 billion, though House Republicans have written their funding bills significantly below that level for domestic programs.

Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde of Athens said during the press conference Tuesday the spending agreement within the debt limit deal was “disastrous.”

“The country gave House Republicans the majority to change the course of Congress,” Clyde said. “Greenlighting a so-called clean, or unqualified, or blind CR, is completely out of the question. It would endanger the Republican majority and endanger Speaker McCarthy’s leadership.”

An official in the White House’s budget office, who declined to speak on the record, said Tuesday the Biden administration is opposed to House Republicans’ decision to cut federal funding by more than $100 billion below the debt limit agreement.

The official said the House GOP full-year spending bills break GOP lawmakers’ “public promises” and “gut key investments in our communities.”

The White House released fact sheets for each state Tuesday detailing what they say will happen if Congress approves the House Republican spending bills as they were written.

Ariana Figueroa contributed to this report.


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