House Freedom Caucus threatens 'reckless' government shutdown unless far-right demands are met
With Congress on August recess, the far-right House Freedom Caucus on Monday issued expected but unlikely-to-be-met demands for a stopgap funding bill that would avert an October government shutdown.
Members of the Senate and House of Representatives are set to return to Capitol Hill on the first and second Tuesday of September, respectively—giving them little time to pass full-year appropriations legislation before funding runs out at the end of next month.
Considering the time crunch, both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have recently signaled support for a continuing resolution (CR) that would give lawmakers a few more months to pass a larger package.
So far, McCarthy's fractured conference has only passed one of 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2024. Among the GOP's "five families" is the House Freedom Caucus (HFC), which does not publicly list its members but is made up of a few dozen legislators, including Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Vice Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
In terms of the appropriations legislation for the next fiscal year, the HFC said in a statement Monday that "we remain committed to restoring the true FY 2022 topline spending level of $1.471 trillion without the use of gimmicks or reallocated rescissions to return the bureaucracy to its pre-Covid size while allowing for adequate defense funding."
"In the eventuality that Congress must consider a short-term extension of government funding through a continuing resolution, we refuse to support any such measure that continues Democrats' bloated Covid-era spending and simultaneously fails to force the Biden administration to follow the law and fulfill its most basic responsibilities," the caucus continued. "Any support for a 'clean' continuing resolution would be an affirmation of the current FY 2023 spending level grossly increased by the lame-duck December 2022 omnibus spending bill that we all vehemently opposed just seven months ago."
The HFC declared that its members will refuse to support any CR that does not include the House-passed Secure the Border Act, "address the unprecedented weaponization" of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and "end the Left's cancerous woke policies in the Pentagon undermining our military's core warfighting mission."
The Pentagon language likely relates to U.S. military policies on abortion and gender-affirming care as well as diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility while the DOJ comment is widely seen as a reference to investigations of former President Donald Trump, who has been indicted in four cases this year—including in two probes led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland after the Republican announced his 2024 presidential campaign.
"We will oppose any attempt by Washington to revert to its old playbook of using a series of short-term funding extensions designed to push Congress up against a December deadline to force the passage of yet another monstrous, budget-busting, pork-filled, lobbyist handout omnibus spending bill at year's end and we will use every procedural tool necessary to prevent that outcome," the HFC added Monday. "Lastly, we will oppose any blank check for Ukraine in any supplemental appropriations bill."
Democrats in Congress quickly warned that the faction of Republicans was up to no good, with Schumer saying in a statement Monday that "if the House decides to go in a partisan direction it will lead to a Republican-caused shutdown."
Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) said that "extreme House Republicans are now threatening to send us into a reckless government shutdown if they don't get their way. A shutdown would be a disaster for Virginians—from missed paychecks to lapses in essential government services that families rely on."
Referencing Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) wrote on social media that "House Republicans are determined to shut down the government and crash our economy. We will fight these MAGA extremists every step of the way. For. The. People."
The New Republic's Tori Otten also suggested that "tanking the economy" could be the goal, noting that the HFC made similar demands earlier this year before McCarthy struck a debt ceiling deal with Democratic President Joe Biden, who is seeking reelection:
The government shutdown in 2018 cost the United States $11 billion, including $3 billion in economic activity that will never be recovered, the Congressional Budget Office said at the start of the following year.With a presidential election on the horizon, the Freedom Caucus could be looking for ways to undermine Biden any way it can. Destroying the economy he's helping to recover would do just that.
The Washington Post reported Monday that "White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton told reporters that she had no updates on whether Biden plans to sign a continuing resolution."
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