House Freedom Caucus Draws Hard Line, Says ‘No’ to Current Spending Levels

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The House Freedom Caucus and conservative groups held a press conference Tuesday opposing any deal to continue government spending at current levels, hours before the House reconvened after a week-long recess to tackle the task of keeping the government open past September 30.

The White House, eager to stave off a shutdown, has proposed a clean extension of current spending levels — with the addition of $40 billion of Ukraine aid, disaster relief, and border security funding — through November or December, giving Congress time to pass legislation to fund the government through the next fiscal year.

Although a large bipartisan consensus in the Senate, led by Leaders Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), backs the White House strategy, in the House, where Republicans hold a slim majority, the path is more complicated, and conservatives are exerting their leverage in an attempt to force spending cuts and policy changes.

“No one is here interested in a pause in government funding,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. “What we’re interested in is taking the Biden boot off the neck of the American people.” Yet with the end of the fiscal year approaching and Congress failing to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills for the next fiscal year thus far, failure to strike a deal would result in a partial government shutdown.

Participants in the press conference argued they’ve seen this play out before, with leadership thrusting a last-minute vote to keep the government open upon them at the last minute, and derided Republican leadership for failing to negotiate earlier for conservative priorities.

“Are we really walking into this month, this return from recess, a couple of weeks out from the spending deadline, and being told we have to support a clean [continuing resolution]?” questioned an exasperated Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC). Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts argued the American people don’t care about parliamentary procedure and simply want Congress to address inflation and the crisis at the southern border. “Only in D.C. would this be complicated,” Roberts lamented.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has navigated challenging dynamics since ascending to the speakership in January after 15 ballots, has made some concessions to conservatives, bucking the White House and Senate in favor of a funding extension without additional aid to the Ukrainians’ war effort against Russia. Congress has already allocated over $100 billion in taxpayer funding to the war despite no clear end in sight, and requiring a separate standalone vote for the Ukrainian aid, McCarthy is offering an incentive to conservatives to support his broader government funding plan.

However, without the Ukrainian aid included, Speaker McCarthy likely must count on support from Republicans only, and conservatives wanting further concessions smell blood. Most notably, they seek a further boost in border security funding with policy changes written into law to force the Biden administration to get tougher at the southern border.

The White House is already sounding the alarm on the harm it claims a partial government shutdown would inflict. Yet with conservative resentment over prior battles to reign in spending, notably the omnibus deal struck in December 2022 and the most recent raising of the debt limit this summer, a shutdown might be the likely outcome, with no clear path for resolution.

“We got rolled on the debt ceiling,” said a resolute Rep. Ralph Norman. “We’re not gonna get rolled again.”

In addition to the House Freedom Caucus, Tuesday’s press conference was held by the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, Club for Growth, Citizens for Renewing America, NumbersUSA, Tea Party Patriots, and the State Freedom Caucus Network. Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) also joined.


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