Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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GOP budget truce hemorrhaging support as deadline looms

A short-term budget compromise aimed at smoothing friction between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his most right-wing caucus members appears short on votes as Congress flirts with a government shutdown.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A weekend push by House Republican leadership to quell a budget revolt from the party’s right flank was on the ropes Monday morning, as more than a dozen GOP lawmakers said that they would not support a proposed spending compromise.

At issue for hard-right Republicans is a continuing resolution unveiled late Sunday night by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and representatives of both the right-wing House Freedom Caucus and the more moderate Main Street Caucus.

The short-term spending patch is primarily designed to avert a government shutdown that will trigger if Congress can’t pass a budget bill before the 2023 fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. The proposed measure would keep the government funded until Oct. 31 with a nearly 8% cut to non-defense spending.

The compromise is also aimed at placating members of the Freedom Caucus and other right-wing lawmakers who have said that they would not support a stopgap budget if it did not meet certain conditions — such as implementing provisions of a House-passed border security bill and doing away with funding for Ukraine.

If made law, the proposed spending deal would include parts of the May border legislation, leaving out only language in the bill that would make an electronic work eligibility verification program mandatory for U.S. employers.

Despite those concessions, around 15 House Republicans had said as of Monday morning that they will still vote against the continuing resolution if it’s brought to the floor.

Many lawmakers bemoaned Congress’ longstanding practice of using such short-term spending patches to buy time for budget negotiations and complained that the compromise would still authorize further support for Kyiv.

“I’m sick of the D.C. backroom deals to appease 61 in the Senate and not going to play this game,” said Florida Congressman Cory Mills in a Sunday evening post on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

“I’m with Cory,” replied North Carolina Republican Dan Bishop, a longtime critic of Speaker McCarthy. Bishop argued that Congress should instead vote on a package of spending bills currently in a holding pattern in the House. “Pass the damn bills,” he said, speaking of appropriations measures. “Roll back the crazy bureaucracy to pre-Covid levels. Now.”

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a former Freedom Caucus Member who has at times defended the speaker, called the proposed continuing resolution a “white flag of surrender.”

“It’s Sep 18th, not Sep 30th,” Greene wrote. “It’s past time to get to work.”

Representative Victoria Spartz of Indiana became one of the latest opponents to the compromise bill Monday morning, dinging Speaker McCarthy for what she said was a lack of leadership.

“The Republican House is failing the American people again and pursuing a path of gamesmanship and circus,” Spartz said in a statement. “It is a shame that our weak Speaker cannot even commit to having a commission to discuss our looming fiscal catastrophe.”

Even though the lawmakers standing against McCarthy’s compromise represent a small minority of the Republican caucus so far, their opposition would be more than enough to scuttle the measure in the House, where the GOP commands just an eight-seat majority.

Several high-profile House Republicans have also come out in support of the proposed budget patch. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Sunday night, Tennessee Congressman Mark Green said the compromise was “the best I’ve seen since coming to Congress” and called the continuing resolution “a big win for the American people.”

Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, said Monday morning that the compromise was “a framework for our colleagues across the House Republican Conference.”

Meanwhile, House Democrats were outraged by the GOP’s stopgap budget plan.

“Less than two weeks away from a government shutdown, House Republicans are still more focused on introducing extreme funding bills … than working on bipartisan solution[s] that could be enacted,” said Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro in a statement Sunday night.

DeLauro, the ranking member of the lower chamber’s Appropriations Committee, accused Republicans of falling back on a government shutdown in the face of opposition to their proposed budget cuts. “It is time to end the charade and get to work,” she wrote.

Even if the proposed continuing resolution cleared the House, it is unlikely that such a measure would pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

McCarthy’s renewed leadership woes come less than a week after the House Freedom Caucus doubled down on their budget demands despite the speaker’s apparent attempt to woo their support by announcing an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

In addition to implementing the House’s border security legislation and bottlenecking Ukraine aid, the Freedom Caucus has demanded that an eventual 2024 budget slash appropriations to 2022 levels.

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