Freedom Caucus Republicans Signal Optimism on Budget Deal, But Challenges Still Ahead

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
September 22, 2023Congress
Freedom Caucus Republicans Signal Optimism on Budget Deal, But Challenges Still Ahead
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) speaks during a markup meeting with the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 20, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Some House Republicans are seeing signs of progress toward a Republican deal on the 2024 budget, with days to go before a potential partial government shutdown.

For weeks, members of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus have been debating with their fellow House Republicans about what conservative priorities they will prioritize in this year’s budget.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, who had widely disagreed with the terms of a June agreement to raise the U.S. debt limit, have called for the Republican-controlled House to cap discretionary spending at a point below that seen in the June deal.

While the June debt limit agreement called for a discretionary spending cap of no more than $1.59 trillion, the House Freedom Caucus had called for an even lower 2024 discretionary spending cap of $1.47 trillion. Speaking with NTD News’ “Capitol Report” on Thursday, Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) said his fellow Republicans were closing in on a discretionary spending number that could win enough votes to pass in the House after a “healthy, constructive, intense, exhaustive conference meeting.”

According to Mr. Good, who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans are zeroing in on a discretionary spending target of $1.526 trillion this year.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), another House Freedom Caucus member, said in his own comments with “Capitol Report” on Friday, that the budget proposal Republicans are currently discussing would achieve a $16 trillion downward trend in spending over the next 10 years, as the U.S. national debt currently hovers around $33 trillion.

Funding Border Security, Countering Biden Agenda

In addition to cutting discretionary spending, House Republicans have been debating a range of additional conservative policy riders to attach to this year’s budget.

The House version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for example, included provisions to bar the military from spending on abortion-related travel and on transgender surgeries. The ongoing budget discussions among House Republicans have focused on tacking conservative objectives onto other areas of the national budget.

Mr. Good said his Republican House colleagues are “implementing good Republican policy and, bill by bill, they are eliminating the climate-environmental energy extremism that’s permeated every policy to the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer regime perpetrated on the American people for the last two years.”

The Virginia lawmaker said his fellow Republicans have also added provisions “eliminating a lot of diversity, equity, inclusion, [critical race theory], LGBTQ transgender funding, transgender surgery funding, abortion funding, those sorts of things.”

If lawmakers can’t reach a full agreement on the 2024 budget, they may go for a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government for a shorter period of time while Congress can resolve any disagreements over the budget for the rest of the year.

House Freedom Caucus members have signaled opposition to a so-called “clean CR,” preferring a CR that forces through additional conservative policy preferences.

Mr. Good said one of the items of discussion during a Thursday House Republican Conference meeting, was a set of terms for a CR. He said any potential stopgap spending bill could include a provision that would cut $10 billion in government spending over 30 days and would force the implementation of provisions of a Republican bill called the “Secure the Border” Act.

Mr. Good said these terms for a CR could force the Democrat-controlled Senate to either agree to the border security measures favored by House Republicans or refuse and force a government shutdown.

Republicans Disagreement Part of ‘Healthy Debate’: Freedom Caucus Member

The House Republicans have faced growing criticism over intraparty debates that have delayed the passage of this year’s budget bills. On Thursday, for example, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said “extreme House Republicans showed yet again that their chaos is marching us toward a reckless and damaging government shutdown.”

“Extreme House Republicans can’t even get an agreement among themselves to keep the government running or to fund the military,” Ms. Jean Pierre added. “They keep demanding more extreme policies as a condition to do their job and keep the government open.”

Mr. Norman, in defense of his House Republican colleagues, said that the House Republican conference is a “having healthy debate” about the budget.

“We have honest disagreements,” Mr. Norman added. “But the good news is spending is now top and center. Along with immigration, we were insistent on our getting spending under control.”

Criticism over the budget impasse has not just come from the White House and its Democratic allies. This week, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) described the budget arguments as an “unmitigated disaster” for the House majority. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was similarly pessimistic, according to Huffington Post, with the senator saying the budget debate is “a [expletive]-show in the House” that will lead to a government shutdown that “will not go well for us.”

Responding to the idea that the House Freedom Caucus is to blame for the failure to reach a budget agreement thus far, Mr. Good said he the objective of his wing of the party has been “to try to help Republicans be the conservatives we claim to be, to do what we said we would do, to justify the trust the American people have placed in us when they gave us the majority, and not to betray them once again.”

While Mr. Good and Mr. Norman signaled progress among House Republicans, part of the challenge ahead may lie in how the Republican conference moves these budget bills forward.

“Many of the conservatives want to make sure that we’re passing some of the bills with the spending cuts and not just putting forward initiative bills with the spending increase … with the promise that we’ll get to the spending cuts later,” Mr. Good said.

House GOP Still Faces Messaging Challenge: Former Member

While the House Republicans may yet find an agreement on the 2024 budget, they will still need to defend those policy demands against a Democrat-controlled Senate and White House with very different priorities. House Republicans will also have to defend against criticism that they took too long to bring their budget proposals together.

Doug Collins, a former Republican representative from Georgia, said his former Republican colleagues can expect little outside help arguing their case if the budget battle comes down to a potential shutdown.

Mr. Collins recalled the 2013 government shutdown, in which a Republican-controlled House challenged the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

“Even with an issue such as Obamacare, it was very difficult to win public opinion over because the media, mass media and others, kick in and say, ‘Oh, you can’t stop, you can’t shut down the government,'” Mr. Collins told “Capitol Report” on Thursday.

While he insisted only about 15 percent of the government’s activities actually do cease during a government shutdown, and “everybody gets paid” back after the shutdown ends, the prospect of a failure to pass a budget on time is always met with emotionally charged rhetoric.

“Everybody clouds with the emotional instead of the reality that we’ve got a country that is drowning in debt right now and we’re not doing anything about it,” Mr. Collins said.

In this current budget debate, the Biden White House has claimed delays caused by House Republicans risk stopping programs designed to combat the flow of fentanyl into the country.

“House Republicans have a stark choice to make: will they honor their word, meet their responsibility to avoid a shutdown, and act on life and death priorities like fighting the fentanyl crisis?” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a Sept. 5 statement.

Mr. Collins pushed back on the White House’s comments about the fentanyl crisis, calling them “hypocritical.”

“Joe Biden has done enough to exacerbate the Fentanyl crisis himself by not closing our border,” Mr Collins said.

The former Republican lawmaker said the White House’s fentanyl comments are an example of Democrats framing the debate around an emotionally charged issue they can blame on Republicans.

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