Funding Negotiations Stall in U.S. House
U.S House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday delayed a vote on a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government from September 30 — the current deadline — until October 31. “I’m just recircling it; we have people talking together,” McCarthy told reporters. “It’s coming up.” The delay signals a lack of agreement among Republicans, whose slim majority makes it necessary to gain the support of nearly every single member.
Also on Tuesday, five House Republicans joined all House Democrats to defeat (212-214) a procedural vote to advance the fiscal year 2024 defense appropriations bill. Such procedural votes usually fall along party lines with no drama. When House conservatives helped defeat a procedural vote to advance a bill in June, it was the first time such a vote had failed since 2002.
Spectrum News reported that the five Republicans, Reps. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) did not object to the contents of the appropriations bill, which cuts funding for DEI, abortion, and gender transition surgeries in the military, but rather signaled their refusal to support any appropriations bills until a broader agreement on spending is reached.
“What we’re calling for is the compromise that we voted for in April when many of us would like to cut our spending much more,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) said Monday on “Washington Watch.” He and other conservatives aim to reduce discretionary spending from an annualized rate of $1.59 trillion in the current CR to the fiscal year 2022 annualized rate of $1.47 trillion, Roll Call reported. “I’d like to start drawing down on our national debt and get ourselves back in a way where we can survive,” said Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-Texas). “And [with] the current projection, I just don’t see that happening.”
The current CR proposal, negotiated by Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), House Freedom Caucus chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), and Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) is an “agreement in principle that was reached by … members of the House Freedom Caucus and the Main Street caucus,” summarized Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, host of “Washington Watch.” “The truth is, there’s a debate going on within the Republican conference and among Republicans in Washington. That is the actual debate,” said Roy, who contrasted it with what he described as Washington’s usual lack of debate.
The CR would reduce spending for all domestic agencies except Veterans Affairs by 8%, while expanding military spending and adding in border security legislation. It also cuts out $24 billion in additional aid for Ukraine and $16 billion in supplemental disaster relief. The CR would only last 30 days, to give the House time to pass the 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024.
Good criticized the bill for only cutting “about 40%” of spending “by 8% for one 30-day period. I don’t even know how you implement that for 30 days.” He also expressed concerns that the Senate would significantly weaken the bill.
More than a dozen Republicans opposed the CR’s current form, according to Reuters. Among the “no” votes are Reps. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), Bishop, Rosendale, Biggs, and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), reported ABC News.
Rep. Norman, who helped defeat Tuesday’s procedural vote on the defense appropriations bill, said he likes the CR, but he opposed the procedural rule because he wants party leadership to provide top-line numbers for appropriations. “I just want to see the total,” Norman said. “A pie has a lot of different ingredients. I want to see all the ingredients that leadership will commit to putting in this pie.”
“You think it’s fun for me to vote against the rule?” Norman asked in response to criticism. “But I’m also unwilling to continue as we’ve done and have unlimited spending.”
Meanwhile, Gaetz objected to continuing resolutions categorically. “I believe we can change Washington, but we have to dispense with this notion that we’re going to do any kind of continuing resolution,” he said Tuesday on “Washington Watch.” “Members ought to have to defend their votes for each of the 12 separate appropriations bills, not just say, ‘Oh, well, sure, I voted to keep funding all of the woke and weaponized things at the Department of Education. But that’s just because I really support our troops and our veterans.’”
“It is fundamentally unserious for the United States of America to have its lawmakers cast one vote on all of the funding for these disparate agencies from the Department of Labor to the Department of Education to the EPA,” Gaetz added. “These agencies should have to stand up and defend their budgets, and those budgets should be open to amendments — from Republicans and Democrats — to reduce spending.”
“We are entering an era where we are about to have $2 trillion annual budget deficits atop a $33 trillion debt. It is totally unsustainable,” Gaetz complained.
“We’re going to borrow … a little more than $6,000 per American citizen,” Good agreed. “We are on track for a $2.2 trillion deficit this year, the largest non-COVID deficit in the history of the country.”
Good added, “All of this is happening with a Republican majority. We ran last November on fiscal responsibility. We ran on cutting spending.”
“If Republicans do not have a reduction in spending in this CR and they just advance the current CR, are they not then taking responsibility for the Biden policies and the Biden budget?” Perkins asked. “The appropriations process was where the cuts were going to take place, but we’ve not seen the appropriations moving forward.”
“Why is it that during eight months of Republican control of the Congress, we have gotten off schedule in producing spending bills?” Gaetz queried. “We can’t blame Joe Biden for that. We can’t blame the Democrats for that or Chuck Schumer. That’s something, that was totally within our control, we failed at.”
Not every conservative is bearish on the CR. Rep. Roy, who helped craft it, said, “I find it extremely difficult to explain or defend opposition to an 8% cut over 30 days in exchange for the most conservative and strong border security measure we’ve ever passed out of this body.”
Another proponent is Rep. Perry, who said, “one path is where we offer something, and the American people can see what we stand for. The other path is, quite honestly, accepting whatever the Senate sends us which is likely to be 100% worse than everything and anything that we stand for. If you don’t do something, you’re not going to get anything.”
As a backdrop to these debates among conservatives, moderate Republicans are prepared to negotiate with Democrats if a budget package cannot secure the votes of hardliners. “[We’ve just got to keep trying to get to yes, and if we can’t, and we’re coming too close to the deadline, then [we go to] Plan B. Plan B is 218 [votes] in the Congress, not the conference,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). In 2022, Fitzpatrick earned a score of 48% on FRC Action’s scorecard.
“There were some moderate Republicans who told me today that, if we don’t agree to a continuing resolution on their terms, they’ll simply sign what’s called a discharge petition, where they take control of the floor alongside the Democrats and move just a total continuation of the Biden era spending,” said Gaetz. “I told them, if they do that, I could not stop them, just like I couldn’t stop someone from signing their own death warrant and handing it to their executioner.” He explained, “it’ll be the very Democrats that moderate Republicans work with, who will then hunt those moderate Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. You don’t want to make coalition with them.”
But even that outcome would not be a total loss, from Gaetz’s perspective. “It is important for us to go through this process of showcasing to the American people what coalition truly governs them,” he said. “And if the coalition that truly governs them is a group of weak Republicans and the Democrats, then then let’s codify that, and let’s have God-fearing conservatives work against that coalition, laying out a vision so that in elections people can make a choice for something different.”
When asked Monday whether the CR would pass the House, Speaker McCarthy responded that he didn’t know. “What’s clear to me is that there is a strong desire among members to revise the spending levels for this CR in order to get on a path to 218 Republican votes,” said Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.). Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who opposes the CR, said he believed party leaders were “open to anything.”
On the other hand, Gaetz said, “We’re out of time. We’re looking at $2 trillion annual deficit. So, we will face a shutdown. … The only way to do this is to roll up our sleeves and plow through it.” Gaetz said Congress might have to “work 12-hour days” or “stay on the weekends.”
“I’ve never seen anybody win a shutdown,” said McCarthy. “You only put the power in the administration.”
But Good disagreed. “Eighty-five percent of government operations continue. Only about 15% are placed on pause,” he said. “All federal workers are either paid or made whole. Essential operations continue. Most Americans won’t even notice there’s a shutdown unless they’re watching the news reports.” However, Good said he would prefer passing a budget to increase negotiating leverage with the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized House Republicans. “The House package is slapdash, reckless, and cruel. And everyone knows it has no chance of passing the Senate. The more time House Republicans waste trying to pass this wish list while ignoring chances for real bipartisanship, the greater the odds they will push us into a costly government shutdown.”
“The House can take the high ground again,” Good responded. Passing a balanced budget is “like running a marathon. It’s not complicated. Run that direction for 26 miles and don’t stop. It’s not easy, but it’s not complicated. … The speaker’s office needs to cast a vision, get behind the vision, and lead the membership,” he said.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.