". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Knives Out after the Senate’s Brutal Rewrite of House Spending Bills

March 25, 2024

Unfortunately for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), life doesn’t get any easier after last week’s excruciating spending negotiations. Believe it or not, the $1.2 trillion dollar monstrosity that funded the government (a “total abomination” according to conservatives) was just the warm-up act for the Fiscal Year 2025 budgets, which House leaders will have to pivot to almost immediately. “Yes, of course we’re behind,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told reporters. And after the deflating product Congress agreed to over the weekend, there won’t be much appetite to go back to the drawing board.

After watching their hard-earned wins slip away, how much fight will Republicans have this time around? “We are already behind on the 2025 budget deadlines,” Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said, pointing to the September deadline for the 12 agency budgets. “Reform is needed,” he insisted, “and it is vital that we as a conference debate how to get our budget process on track.”

But for House conservatives, who arguably did get their process on track with their initial basket of bills, it’s a daunting thought to hit repeat. After all, appropriators slogged through more than half of the budgets, slashing spending and protecting language on core values like life — only to watch the Senate erase it all with a wave of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) hand.

“There were a lot of things in this bill that changed after it went to the Senate,” Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) lamented Friday on “Washington Watch.” “The House bill that we passed initially was a pretty good bill, and then it went over to the Senate. And like any bill that we passed in the House, it has to go to the Senate … and we have to marry up the differences and try to work out the differences. And I felt like … too much of what Schumer [wanted] was included…”

Angry Republicans have pointed to all sorts of woke causes—from funding groups who host drag shows to taxpayer-funded chest binders and “crotch bulges” for kids. Infuriating Americans, even illegal immigrants are eligible for free gender transition services. “We continue to fund abortion tourism,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) vented, “We continue to fund transgender surgeries at the Department of Defense,” Roy continued. “It busts the [spending] caps … funds the FBI headquarters, doesn’t secure the border, funds the World Health Organization.”

Aderholt could only shake his head, admitting before the vote that he has “multiple concerns,” among them, he explained, “the many new social services that this bill would create for the millions of illegal immigrants streaming across our border. Additionally,” he said, “it would fund facilities providing routine abortion services, including late-term abortions.”

While GOP senators tried to interject and strip out the Left’s grab bag of social policies, Schumer refused to allow debate on a 1,012-page behemoth that landed in members’ laps in the middle of the night Thursday. “The bottom line is Democratic senators running for re-election are scared to vote on amendments,” Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said.

And while hard-liners like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) lay the blame squarely on the speaker’s office, other Republicans are more circumspect. The reality, Aderholt wanted people to know, is that Republicans only control one-third of the power levers — and by the narrowest of margins. “I think he tried very hard,” the Georgia conservative said of Johnson. “He was unsuccessful in getting, I think, a lot of the bad things pulled out of this bill,” Aderholt told guest host Joseph Backholm. There was “just a whole host of things in the bill that was not in the House [version]. I know Mike Johnson, the speaker, didn’t want to see [this], but unfortunately, the Senate included it.”

Taylor Green, who pulled the trigger on a motion to vacate Johnson, claimed of her campaign to oust the speaker, “I’m being respectful. This may take some time.” It may take more than that, other wings of the caucus say. Not many Republicans have the stomach to throw the House back into chaos months away from an election.

Look, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said, “The speaker walked into a very difficult situation as a result of the vacating of the chair with Kevin McCarthy and has done a good job negotiating on behalf of the conference, while still being undermined by people on the Right, who failed to realize that their conduct has actually weakened the hand of the conference.”

Others, like Aderholt, are adamantly opposed, telling Backholm, “I would be totally against vacating the chair right now. Mike Johnson has been there for — what? — six months or less. And he is doing a great job. He has got a very difficult job to do. I’m behind Mike Johnson 100%. He is a good man. He’s someone that has true Christian convictions. And so I think it would be a real mistake for him to be removed as speaker at this point.”

But could he have done more to fight the minibus? “Well, obviously closing down the government is a serious thing,” the Alabaman pointed out, “and we can’t just pretend that it is a simple issue and say, ‘We’ll just shut down the government.’ And so, [Johnson had] to go through a long thought process. The speaker and I had many conversations over the last several days about this bill and about what all was included in it. He took the position that, ‘Well, if a government shutdown occurred, then we may have to even give more into the Democrats to get it back open.’ Certainly, that is a legitimate argument. … But at the same time, I think that we have to push back on what the Senate sends over, and we’ve got to make a statement to say that the House is not going to rubber-stamp what the Senate sends over.”

At the end of the day, “It was a mistake to rush this bill through,” Aderholt agreed. “… [I]t would have been important to have this vetted, to let the conference [and] every member of Congress have plenty of time to look at this legislation.” But that’s mainly Schumer’s fault, he argued. “I feel like the Senate really did us wrong, especially the leader of the Senate, [who] tried to interject the Senate’s wishes on us without us pushing back.”

Let’s face it, he said, “We have a two-seat majority right now. And [soon because of another retirement and Rep. Mike Gallagher unexpectedly stepping down], we’ll have a one-seat majority. So, it’s a tough job, and I don’t want to make light of [the speaker’s] job. … But, obviously, I think that we’ve got to stand strong and we’ve got to stand together. And I’m hoping that as we move forward in the spring and in this new year, that we can come together as Republicans, and we can stand strong together. We’re not unified right now. We need to be unified.”

As the House gears up for an encore of these spending fights, Aderholt urged his fellow Republicans, “We have got to change the way we’re doing things. The things we’re doing right now [are] not appropriate. It’s not right. And I think the American people are getting tired of it. And so that’s why I think the status quo is a failure. And so I’m looking forward to having a chance to try to reform the appropriations process and try to do what I can to make the appropriations work and be accountable to the members and also to the people we represent.”

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.