GOP hardliners and pragmatists favor a short-term continuing resolution with 8 percent spending cuts, prompting opposition from some ultra-conservatives.
A coalition of House Republicans introduced legislation that would keep the federal government funded through Oct. 31 with a reduction in discretionary spending, allowing additional time for Congress to determine 2024 spending levels.
The measure was proposed by members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and the pragmatically minded Main Street Caucus on Sept. 17, less than two weeks before the end of the federal fiscal year.
The 165-page bill would continue all government operations, but with an 8 percent reduction in spending for most discretionary programs except for the military and Veterans Affairs.
House Republicans generally have said they would oppose a so-called clean continuing resolution (CR), meaning not accompanied by spending cuts or one that extended through most of the calendar year. They are determined to avoid a repeat of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Democrats in December.
“A small handful of appropriators will write something up with a push from the law firm of Schumer, McConnell, McCarthy, and Jeffries,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told reporters on Sept. 13, referring to Senate majority and minority leaders, respectively, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
“It is usually with just a few hours to go. You’ve got to pass this thing, and if you don’t, there’ll be a shutdown,” Mr. Lee said. “You will have no opportunity to amend this, you will have no opportunity to read it, to understand what’s in it, to share it with your constituents, to object to it, to improve it to comment on it.”
Both the Main Street and House Freedom caucuses are comprised of conservative Republicans, but their interests are not identical.
The Main Street group, chaired by Mr. Johnson, is focused on everyday issues facing ordinary Americans, especially business interests. The Freedom Caucus, led by Mr. Perry, has been focused on deficit reduction through spending cuts and reigning in what it sees as the weaponization of government by the Biden administration.
By working together on a short-term continuing resolution that reduces non-defense discretionary spending, the leaders of the Main Street and House Freedom caucuses have signaled that are willing to seek common ground in the appropriations process.
Some other House Republicans remain opposed to any continuation of current spending levels, even though that could result in a government shutdown.
“NO,” Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) wrote on X shortly after the legislation was introduced.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) stated his objection to the measure in a bit more detail. “This Continuing Resolution to fund Ukraine and Jack Smith’s election interference is a betrayal of Republicans. We must do better,” Mr. Gaetz wrote on X.
His objections were seconded by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), who wrote on X, “This is EXACTLY why I am a NO on the CR. Don’t listen to the propaganda media machine that will kick on this week. They don’t want what [is] best for the little guy. They want to feed the machine.”
The bill does not mention either Ukraine or Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution of President Donald Trump. However, the Departments of Defense and Justice are funded at 2023 levels for an additional 31 days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to visit Washington this week. President Joe Biden is expected to renew his call for $24 billion in additional funding to support for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.
Time Running Out
The appropriations process in the House, already behind schedule, came to a standstill on Sept. 13 when hardline Republicans effectively blocked consideration of the $886 billion defense appropriations bill by the full House.
Based on their threat to block any spending bill if strict caps were not adhered to on non-defense discretionary spending, Mr. McCarthy canceled a procedural vote on the proposed defense bill.
“Nobody’s objecting to what’s in the bill,” said Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “Everybody’s trying to leverage the bill for something now.”
Republican hardliners are relatively few in number, but in the narrowly divided House, it takes just four dissenters to block any piece of Republican legislation.
While some House Republicans have spoken openly about shutting down the government to achieve their demands for deeper spending cuts, most are interested in gaining an achievable conservative win by enacting some spending cuts and repealing some portions of President Biden’s agenda.
So far, Republican-sponsored bills would reduce federal spending in 2024 and set caps on future spending growth. The bills would also repeal parts of the Inflation Reduction Act, including so-called clean-energy tax credits.
Far-right conservatives are pushing for deeper spending cuts in an effort to reduce the federal deficit and to strip the Biden administration of funding used to “weaponize” the federal government against its citizens.
“We’re here to put our foot down and say to this place, right here, it stops now,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), chair of the House Freedom Caucus, said in a press conference on Sept. 13.
“The power of the purse is in the legislature, and the way you stop all this craziness of the Biden administration—the tyranny of the Biden administration—is to stop giving them money.”
Meanwhile, the Senate has passed all 12 of the required 2024 appropriations bills through their respective committees with bipartisan support. The Senate is setting appropriations levels based on the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
The bill represents a compromise agreed to by Mr. McCarthy and President Biden to suspend the nation’s debt ceiling through Jan. 1, 2025, while cutting non-defense discretionary spending slightly in 2024 and increasing it by 1 percent in 2025.
Appropriators in the House are passing larger spending committees than those set by the Senate, setting up a fight between the two bodies to reconcile the amounts. Democrats control the Senate by a slim 51–49 majority.
The short-term spending extension was introduced by Reps. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), and Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.).
The Epoch Times requested comment on the continuing resolution from Messrs. McCarthy, Donalds, Johnson, and Perry, but none were received before the time of publication.