The hard-right House Freedom Caucus announced Monday that its members will not support a stopgap funding bill to keep the government running past the end of next month unless several of its conservative policy priorities on immigration and other issues are attached.
The announcement marks a potential setback for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has floated the possibility of passing a stopgap bill to avoid a government shutdown amid a looming budget deadline of Sept. 30. The posture of the House Freedom Caucus, which has roughly three dozen members, could mean that McCarthy will have to rely on Democrats to pass such a measure in the closely divided chamber.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that McCarthy recognized, during a late-July call, that Congress needs to pass a stopgap funding bill in September. And, as the Associated Press and other outlets reported, McCarthy introduced the idea to the House GOP conference on a members-only call.
McCarthy has long struggled to keep the Republican conference together amid multiple budgeting fights in the House, meaning the House Freedom Caucus has been able to leverage its party’s fragile majority to its advantage.
A spokeswoman for McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, the ultraconservative Republicans said they will oppose a short-term extension of government funding — known as a continuing resolution — if it doesn’t include a House-passed bill that funds restrictive border policies. The continuing resolution, they said, must also include provisions that “address the unprecedented weaponization of the Justice Department and FBI” and it must “end the Left’s cancerous woke policies in the Pentagon.”
The House’s most right-wing members have alleged that the Justice Department has been “weaponized” against former president Donald Trump, who has been indicted four times, and that Democrats have turned the Pentagon “woke” by supporting inclusive policies within the military.
“As Congress continues to work to pass appropriations bills, we must rein in the reckless inflationary spending, and the out-of-control federal bureaucracy it funds,” the group said in its Monday statement.
The statement said the House should revert to fiscal year 2022 spending levels “without the use of gimmicks or reallocated rescissions to return the bureaucracy to its pre-COVID size while allowing for adequate defense funding.” Such a move would require steep budget cuts.
The caucus said that any “support for a ‘clean’ Continuing Resolution would be an affirmation of the current FY 2023 spending level.”
In a Monday interview with conservative host Lisa Boothe, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), a member of the caucus, argued that Congress, when it returns next month, will once again go back to the “normal D.C. dance of ‘Oh, let’s do a two-month, two-and-a-half-month extension of a continuing resolution of funding at current levels.’”
“I disagree with that,” he said. “Our priority needs to be spending going down to pre-covid levels.”
Roy, echoing points made in the caucus statement, said he wants to “restrain the Department of Homeland Security” and “make sure that Department of Justice is being reformed and restraining funds from being used to carry out political shots.”
“We have the House, and the House is the originator of spending bills, and we have the power of the purse,” he said. “We should therefore use that power to reclaim our country, to take it back for the people.”
Online, other members of the caucus also demanded that a continuing resolution be passed only if it targets the cuts outlined by the HFC in its statement.
“There’s just no way to keep this ship sailing unless we get deficit spending under control,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Rep. Mary E. Miller (R-Ill.) said in a post that House Republicans must also fight for “no more blank check for Ukraine,” and to “end military funding for abortion.” House conservatives have also long demanded that the Biden administration end what Republicans have denounced as the military’s “woke” policies on abortion, race and gender-affirming care.
Ultraconservative members of the House have over the past year argued against growing funding for the war effort against Russia, most recently signaling opposition to President Biden’s request of $24 billion to continue supporting Ukraine. In its Monday statement, the group said it will also oppose “any blank check for Ukraine in any supplemental appropriations bill.”
In Schumer’s call with reporters last week, he said he’s considering pushing for a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded until early December as the congressional appropriation committees work through 12 funding bills. The Senate appropriators, he noted, are working in a strongly bipartisan way.
“We urge our House colleagues to emulate the Senate,” Schumer said. “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. It just won’t work the way our government is structured.”
It is not unusual, however, for ultraconservative members of the GOP conference to stand against short-term funding measures. In 2021, the House Freedom Caucus urged Republican leaders to delay passing a continuing resolution over Biden’s vaccine mandates.
In its Monday statement, the group also warned congressional leaders against forcing lawmakers into an omnibus spending bill as the clock runs down and a government shutdown deadline approaches.
“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,” they said.
On Monday, White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton told reporters that she had no updates on whether Biden plans to sign a continuing resolution.
After the House Freedom Caucus made its announcement, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) warned on X that House Republicans “are determined to shutdown the government and crash our economy.”
“We will fight these MAGA extremists every step of the way,” he said, referring to former president Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Speaking to reporters last week, Jeffries noted that the House Democratic Caucus is meeting virtually this week to begin discussions on a stopgap bill. Democrats in the House have shown openness to the idea of a “clean” resolution — one that keeps the government funded for a short period of time but leaves out the added policy priorities — which means McCarthy could resort to them to secure enough votes to pass it.
Reaching such a deal with House Democrats, however, could anger the most right-wing members of his conference, who in June paralyzed legislative business in the House after McCarthy reached a deal with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.
And Senate Democrats have long signaled that they will not support a continuing resolution that includes the conservative provisions the House Freedom Caucus is demanding.
“If the House decides to go in a partisan direction, it will lead to a Republican-caused shutdown,” Schumer warned in a statement to The Washington Post on Monday.
Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.