WASHINGTON — A handful of ultra-conservative U.S. House Republicans rebuked their leadership on Tuesday over the annual government funding process, but appeared at odds on whether they should force a government shutdown later this year.
Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs at a news conference mostly ruled out a funding lapse, though Virginia Rep. Bob Good left the option on the table, saying the GOP shouldn’t fear the impacts on federal operations or the economy.
“I am not worried about a government shutdown at this point,” Biggs said. “But that’s my own perspective, I know I’m not speaking for everybody else.”
Good then said that Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, has an “opportunity to be a transformational, historical speaker” if he presses for spending cuts beyond what Republicans have already made in their bills.
“We should not fear a government shutdown; most of what we do up here is bad anyway, most of what we do up here hurts the American people,” Good said.
The Republican House, he argued, should force the Democratic Senate and Biden administration to accept its dozen appropriations bills, once they comply with Freedom Caucus ideals.
The Freedom Caucus is a group of especially conservative members of the House Republican Conference that likely numbers somewhere between 30 and 50 lawmakers. The group doesn’t publicly release its membership list, but is led by Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry.
That move to insist on the House version would throw out the conference process where the House and Senate reconcile their differences, an element of so-called “regular order” that Freedom Caucus members have repeatedly called for over the years.
“The House is going to say ‘No,’ we’re going to pass a good Republican bill out of the House and force the Senate and the White House to accept it, or we’re not going to move forward,” Good said. “What would happen if Republicans for once stared down the Democrats and were the ones who refused to cave?”
Republicans forced a partial government shutdown in 2013 in an attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. They didn’t succeed.
Former President Donald Trump, backed by many within the GOP, forced a partial government shutdown over getting billions more for border wall construction than he asked for in his budget request. He didn’t get the additional funds.
Freedom Caucus members in January pressed McCarthy to put more of their members on the House Appropriations Committee in order to keep an eye on the annual government funding process.
Those members had the opportunity to offer amendments during committee markups. And Freedom Caucus members have had the opportunity to propose amendments for the first two bills heading to the House floor this week, which many of them have done.
But that process hasn’t assuaged their concerns with the funding levels or the process.
Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale on Tuesday appeared to back bundling all 12 of the annual bills together in an omnibus, a move that conservatives in both chambers have repeatedly spoken out against. Conservative Republicans, instead, have called on leaders to move the bills individually, which McCarthy is doing.
“We are united in the belief that we have to see what the entire cost is before we can start working on individual pieces of it,” Rosendale said. “The most reasonable and the smartest way to handle it is to look at all 12 bills together, so we can see what the total spending is and make sure we’re at that 1.471 (trillion dollars).”
The House Appropriations Committee, which is controlled by Republicans, has posted all dozen of its bills.
Spending bills headed for floor debate
Biggs also indicated he might not be paying especially close attention to his House Republican colleagues’ work on the Appropriations Committee.
“We haven’t even seen what’s in there. I don’t believe they’re actually even drafted yet,” Biggs said after being asked about the two spending bills heading to the House floor this week.
“We need to see what’s in there. We need to know what’s in there. We need the 72 hours that they promised they’d give us on every bill to be able to read those and digest them before we make a decision on that,” Biggs added.
The House Appropriations Committee began releasing its annual bills in May and has since marked up the vast majority of those bills publicly in both subcommittee and full committee. All of the bills as well as summaries and committee reports are posted online and the committee debate has been live-streamed.
The Appropriations Committee released the two spending bills the House will debate this week in mid-May, more than two months ago.
The committee approved the Agriculture and the Military Construction-VA spending bills in mid-June, following committee debate and an amendment process.
The Freedom Caucus members at Tuesday’s press conference didn’t say how they’d vote on the two bills, though members there did broadly criticize party leaders.
“We’re sounding the warning call,” Biggs said. “We’re reminding our leadership, you need the votes and we’re begging our leadership ‘listen to us.’”