WASHINGTON – Leaders of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus have softened their hardline on government spending. They fear they will be marginalized in the next fight over government shutdown if they continue to make implausible requests.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the group’s chair, said that he supports the $1.59 trillion total spending level that was negotiated by President Joe Biden with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He has backed down from the $1.471 billion level conservatives demanded.
Perry told reporters the Congress cannot go beyond this level.
“No more gimmicks.” The majority of the House voted in favor. The majority of Senators voted in favor. This is where we need to be. “Don’t add anything to it,” he told the crowd on Wednesday. “Let’s make that the number.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a Freedom Caucus Member, said that he also supports $1.59 trillion, as long as “no side deals” or “gimmicks”, are used to increase the figure.
He claimed that the $1.471 trillion demand was a negotiation tactic.
Roy stated, “We wanted $1.471 billion.” “But now I can be honest because we’re past that. You plant your flag here knowing that you will, at most, get 1.530, 1.540, or somewhere else. “So that’s why we’ve always been pulling to the right in terms of spending restraint.”
Senators reported that the shift in policy came the same day Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) met with Senate Republicans to warn them that if they are unable reach an agreement on funding, Congress could be forced to accept a continuing resolution for a whole year.
Congress will need to deal with government funding as early as next year in order to avoid a shutdown. According to an idea by House Republicans, it faces a funding deadline with two levels. Some parts of government will run out of money Jan. 19, while others will run out of funds on Feb. 2.
“I believe most members of Congress are aware of the difficulties of an annual CR, and how it affects the ability of agencies to spend funds exactly as they did last fiscal year,” said Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark. ), a member the Appropriations committee. It really handicaps them.
Both parties want to avoid an annual stopgap measure. House conservatives are concerned that they will be worse off if the bill is passed.
Bob Good, R.-Va., said, “We have no evidence to date when it comes spending with the Republican majority in Congress.”
The Freedom Caucus’ shift may make it easier for Republicans to reach a funding agreement after McCarthy, R.-Calif. was ousted in September when he could not satisfy their demands and had to resort to a stopgap measure.
There are still many obstacles to overcome. The Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate are miles apart on spending preferences. The House attaches a number of controversial policies popular with the right. These include anti-abortion measures and anti-LGBTQ provisions. However, these measures are doomed to failure in the Senate.
The chair of the Appropriations committee, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash. ), said that the Biden-McCarthy agreement must be respected in its entirety.
“House Republicans must stick to the agreement that they negotiated, and which an overwhelming majority voted in favor. “The Fiscal Responsibility Act already forced hard cuts on domestic discretionary expenditure — the negotiations have happened, and I won’t entertain any further cuts”, she said when asked about the Freedom Caucus change.
She said that House Republicans must return to the full amount of resources they agreed upon in their spending agreement and abandon radical poison pills, such as restricting access to medication abortion across the country and many other demands.
It’s still a long road to avoid a lapse or shutdown.
Boozman stated, “I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to do it but I’m confident that we will get it done.”