Congress Gears Up for Spending Fight as Government Shutdown Looms

Jackson Richman
By Jackson Richman
September 1, 2023Congress
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Congress Gears Up for Spending Fight as Government Shutdown Looms
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks to the media during a briefing in National Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington on July 17, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

With the Senate returning next week and the House resuming in two weeks, Congress is bracing for a spending fight as a government shutdown looms when federal funding for the 2022-2023 fiscal year expires at the end of September.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has acknowledged the possibility of doing a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which would continue to fund the government at current levels possibly with changes, to keep the government running.

“I do expect a short-term CR will be needed to finish all the work that we set out to do,” McCarthy reportedly told House Republicans during a closed conference call on Aug. 14.

“But I don’t want the Senate to jam us against the holidays.”

“I thought it was a good thing that he recognized that we need a CR in September. I’m supportive of that,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reportedly told reporters on a call.

“A CR until early December provides time for consideration of these bipartisan bills,” he continued. “We urge our House colleagues to emulate the Senate. The only way we’re going to avoid a government shutdown is by bipartisan support in both houses.

“You cannot keep the government open if you just want to do it with one party. We hope that House Republicans will realize that any funding resolution has to be bipartisan or they will risk shutting down the government.”

During an appearance on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” on Aug. 27, Mr. McCarthy expressed interest in doing a CR.

“I would actually like to have a short-term CR, only to make our arguments stronger, because … if we shut down, all the government shuts down, investigation and everything else. It hurts the American public,” he told host Maria Bartiromo.

“But if we’re able to pass our appropriation bills, we’re in a stronger position to remove those … ‘Pelosi policies’ that are locked into law right now—the wokeism, the overspending, the nonsecurity of this border,” he continued, referring to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who preceded Mr. McCarthy as Speaker.

A memo from the Republican Study Committee, the largest House GOP caucus—first reported by Fox News and obtained by The Epoch Times—calls on Mr. McCarthy to not allow a clean CR, which would continue to fund the government at current levels without any changes.

The hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus has said it will not support a CR if it does not include the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which the House passed earlier this year; address “the unprecedented weaponization of the Justice Department and FBI” and “end the Left’s cancerous woke policies in the Pentagon undermining our military’s core warfighting mission.”

Additionally, the Freedom Caucus “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.”

Moreover, the caucus “will oppose any blank check for Ukraine in any supplemental appropriations bill.”

Mr. McCarthy can only afford to lose four members of his own caucus.

The math got even harder when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a supporter of Mr. McCarthy, announced on Aug. 31 that she would not vote for government funding unless there is a vote to formalize an impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden, the defunding the “weaponization of government,” the elimination of Covid mandates, and “no funding for the war in Ukraine.”

In accordance with the Constitution, appropriations bills must originate in the House.

The White House slammed Ms. Greene’s comments.

“The last thing the American people deserve is for extreme House members to trigger a government shutdown that hurts our economy, undermines our disaster preparedness, and forces our troops to work without guaranteed pay,” said White House deputy spokesperson Andrew Bates in a statement.

“The House Republicans responsible for keeping the government open already made a promise to the American public about government funding, and it would be a shame for them to break their word and fail the country because they caved to the hardcore fringe of their party in prioritizing a baseless impeachment stunt over high stakes needs Americans care about deeply—like fighting fentanyl trafficking, protecting our national security, and funding FEMA,” he continued.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a Freedom Caucus member, told The Epoch Times that while “there is talk and questions being asked on both sides of the aisle,” there are “no meaningful solutions.”

He expressed alarm that Mr. McCarthy will not have spending levels be where they were before the Covid-19 pandemic, at just over $1.47 trillion, “nor does he intend to give a top-line number for the remaining 11 appropriations still to be voted on, so his intention will be a CR until December then a massive omnibus” with the help of Democrats.

Mr. McCarthy has repeatedly stated that he will not bring an omnibus bill, allocating government funding and putting in pieces of legislation, to the House floor.

A $1.7 trillion omnibus bill passed the then-Democrat-controlled Congress and was enacted by Mr. Biden late last year.

The White House has refused to say whether it will push for a CR, though it has asked for supplemental funding.

In an Aug. 10 letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young asked for more than $13 billion in military assistance to Ukraine and related expenses.

It also includes a request of almost $68.23 million for the Department of Energy related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and relevant expenses.

During the debt ceiling debate months ago, members of Congress called for a supplemental defense spending bill that includes assistance to Ukraine.

Mr. McCarthy has rebutted these calls, while Mr. Schumer would not commit to bringing up such a bill.

OMB also requested almost $758.6 million for U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement—$714 million to confront migrant surges at the southwest border and $45 million to combat fentanyl and other drugs coming over the border.

Ms. Young asked for $12 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to major disasters.

She also requested tens of millions of dollars for firefighters combating wildfires as “more than 20,000 heroic firefighters would face a pay cliff starting as soon as October, with salaries being cut to as low as $15 an hour” if Congress does not take action.

This week, the administration asked for an additional $4 billion in light of the latest natural disasters such as the wildfires in Hawaii and Hurricane Idalia in the south, including Florida.

“The president has been clear that we’re going to stand with communities across the nation as they recover from disasters for as long as it takes, and the administration is committed to working with Congress to ensure funding for the DRF is sufficient for recovery needs,” said an OMB spokesperson.

“We urge Congress to take swift action on supplemental appropriations.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined on Aug. 30 to say whether Mr. Biden would sign a CR, saying she would not “get into hypotheticals.”

She noted that the administration continuously engages with members of Congress.

However, OMB has acknowledged the likelihood of a CR.

“It is clear that a short-term continuing resolution (CR) will be needed next month,” an Office of Management and Budget spokesperson told The Epoch Times in a statement.

“OMB is providing Congress with [the] technical assistance needed to avoid severe disruptions to government services in the first quarter of the fiscal year.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, told The Epoch Times that a government shutdown is not an option.

“Congress has a list of to-dos, and in order to get things done on behalf of the American people, the government needs to remain open,” he said. “It costs taxpayers money to shut down government and even more to re-open it.

“It’s also why I’m pushing to restore fiscal sanity through the regular budget process, so that Congress stops lurching from one fiscal cliff to the next,” continued Mr. Grassley.

“Most likely, Congress is going to have to pass a continuing resolution until later this year based on current funding levels.”

From The Epoch Times

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