Freedom Caucus Erects Barriers to Continuing Resolution, Appropriations
When Congress returns to Washington next month, Labor Day picnics will be over and the struggle to approve a continuing resolution to keep the government running will begin. It could get ugly.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus has announced it will oppose a stopgap spending measure unless it cuts current spending levels and addresses immigration and border issues and Pentagon “woke policies”. There also may be an effort to cut spending or hamstring federal and state prosecution of former President Donald Trump.
Adding those provisions to a continuing resolution would run into political and parliamentary challenges that couldn’t be surmounted in the 12 legislative days the House is in session in September before the new fiscal year starts October 1. Without final approval of FY 2024 appropriations or a continuing resolution, there would be a partial federal government shutdown. At least a few Freedom Caucus members have expressed support for a shutdown as a showdown on spending.
A Caucus statement said: “A ‘clean’ continuing resolution, which typically extends the prior fiscal year’s funding rate, would be an affirmation of the current fiscal 2023 spending level grossly increased by the lame-duck December 2022 omnibus spending bill that we all vehemently opposed just seven months ago.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy only has a slim four-vote margin over Democrats. Last May, the House passed a bill that would resume construction of a border wall, restrict asylum and require all employers to verify electronically that new hires can work here legally. The measure passed with two Republicans voting against it. One of the two GOP opponents sits on the House Rules Committee that must approved legislation before it comes to the House floor.
Even if a continuing resolution with Freedom Caucus riders managed to pass the House, it would have no chance in the Democratically controlled Senate. The continuing resolution is necessary because many of the same partisan divisions have been inserted into appropriations measures. Before the August recess, the House only approved one of the 12 FY 2024 appropriations. The Freedom Caucus has pledged to oppose any effort to combine all unapproved appropriations into an omnibus FY 2024 spending bill later this year.
An even stiffer battle awaits for the $40.1 billion supplemental spending request by President Biden who wants more aid to Ukraine and funding for disaster relief, fentanyl interdiction and migrant support. The Freedom Caucus says, “We will oppose any blank check for Ukraine in any supplemental appropriation”.
Trump Prosecution Funding
Congressman Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia, indicates he is preparing two amendments to the Commerce-Justice-Science and Labor-HHS-Education appropriations. The amendments would prevent taxpayer dollars used to prosecute any major presidential candidate prior to the upcoming presidential election at the federal or state level.
“Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars have no place funding the radical Left’s nefarious election interference efforts,” Clyde said in a statement.
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R- Georgia, intends to invoke the so-called Holman rule, which Republicans revived this session, that allows an individual lawmaker to introduce amendments reducing a specific government official’s compensation paid out of Treasury.
Both defunding efforts are doubtful because Special Prosecutor Jack Smith’s office is financed through permanent indefinite appropriations in a 1987 law, not the annual appropriations process. An attempt by Clyde to strip Smith’s funding in the Commerce-Justice-Science bill or Greene’s House floor amendment could be ruled by the House Parliamentarian as out of order.
House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has explored cutting off federal support for state prosecutors in New York and Georgia pursuing Trump prosecutions. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg responded to Jordan by saying his office receives $583,000 in federal funding from the Victims Crime Fund, $204, 000 in grants to address violent crimes and $50,000 in a Violence Against Women’s grant. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis received her inquiry last week.
Other conservative House Republicans are pushing to block all federal funding to the offices of Bragg and Willis. Such selective and politically charged spending cuts have no chance of surviving a House-Senate conference committee, but do represent roadblocks to a continuing resolution, appropriation bill approvals and approval of a supplemental spending bill.
The View from the Senate
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he supports moving ahead with a continuing resolution until December to allow time to iron out differences on FV 2024 appropriations. Schumer also supports Biden’s $40 billion supplemental spending request, including more aid for Ukraine.
“Most Senate Republicans are on the other side [of House conservatives] on Ukraine aid. Most House Republicans are on the other side,” Schumer says. “So, you know, [House conservatives] are very, very obstreperous. And they want their way or the highway, but their highway is over a cliff for themselves and all the Republicans that follow them.”