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House GOP readies more cuts to fiscal 2024 appropriations bills

Leadership seeking conservatives' buy-in before anticipated floor action next week

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., leaves a news conference after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on June 6.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., leaves a news conference after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on June 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republican leaders are moving toward deeper cuts in the fiscal 2024 appropriations bills in an effort to win over votes from hard-line conservatives as bills start to move to the House floor next week.

During a Wednesday night meeting, members of leadership and the House Freedom Caucus agreed to trim the bills which have been moving through the Appropriations Committee to get as close to the enacted fiscal 2022 level of $1.471 trillion as possible, according to sources familiar with the meeting. 

The meeting included Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., along with Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., Freedom Caucus appropriators Andy Harris, R-Md. and Ben Cline, R-Va., and several others.

A number of Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives have raised objections to the Appropriations Committee’s move to allow $115 billion in spending above the fiscal 2022 topline, offset by rescissions of previously appropriated but unspent funding.

With the add-ons, new fiscal 2024 spending would come to $1.586 trillion — still below the caps in the debt ceiling law, but nonetheless a level the conservatives view as unacceptable. By the same token, GOP leaders can’t lose support from the more centrist wing of the party on close votes, with most if not all Democrats expected to oppose the bills. 

[Related: Granger sets fiscal 2024 funding targets below debt limit deal]

Perry and 20 other conservatives sent a letter last week to House Republican leadership asking for the cuts to the fiscal 2022 topline without the use of rescissions, which they said should be used to make further reductions rather than pay for new spending.

“Rescissions are useful in reducing spending and we encourage their use, but we cannot support using them to shift funding to the very bureaucrats implementing the Biden agenda at roughly current levels of spending, thereby enshrining and continuing Democrats’ reckless inflationary spending,” they wrote. 

House Republicans plan to move the Agriculture and Military Construction-VA measures on the floor next week. The Wednesday night meeting didn’t result in a Freedom Caucus commitment to support those bills or others on the floor, but more discussions are planned.

The group discussed the possibility of using a self-executing rule where an amendment to add spending cuts is inserted once the rule for floor debate is adopted, sources said. One source said that the execution of further cuts could come in a manager’s amendment executed in a rule, or by stand-alone or en bloc amendments on the floor. 

Other attendees at the meeting were Military Construction-VA Appropriations Chairman John Carter, R-Texas; Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla.; Republican Main Street Caucus Chair and McCarthy ally Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.; and Reps. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y., and Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa. 

One source said that members agreed that the defense authorization bill that passed last week would be an example of the process, and that policy items not directly related to spending levels would also be critical to passing the bills.

Conservatives hinted at what some of those policy items may be in amendments submitted for the Agriculture and Military Construction-VA bills. 

Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., introduced an amendment for consideration in the Military Construction-VA bill that would eliminate exceptions to abortion restrictions placed in the bill, which allow funding for abortions where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and where the woman has life-endangering physical conditions. 

Amendments submitted for the Agriculture bill include cuts to food programs proposed by Ogles and Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. and Bob Good, R-Va. 

The House discussions were happening while next steps were unclear for the last two bills House appropriators haven’t yet brought before the full committee.

The Commerce-Justice-Science and Labor-HHS-Education measures are two of the largest and most controversial bills, and conservatives have been eyeing a raft of potential funding and policy changes. GOP panel leaders can’t lose more than three votes and still report measures out of committee along party lines.

Senate deal

Senate appropriators, meanwhile, were moving in the opposite direction from their House counterparts.

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced Thursday that her panel would add $13.7 billion in emergency spending to its fiscal 2024 bills to address priorities that couldn’t otherwise be paid for under the spending caps imposed by the debt limit law.

Murray said she and ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine agreed to add $8 billion for defense and $5.7 billion for nondefense programs, as CQ Roll Call previously reported.

The Homeland Security and Labor-HHS-Education bills would get $2 billion each; the State-Foreign Operations bill would get $1.35 billion; and the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which was already marked up last week, would get $350 million, presumably tacked onto one of the remaining bills.

“This additional funding is important to us to be able to continue to work together on a bipartisan basis to address the urgent challenges our country faces,” Murray said at a markup Thursday. 

However, not all Senate appropriators were on board with the move to add more money on top of the caps agreed to in the debt limit deal. 

“Unfortunately, it looks like yet another gimmick is being pursued, this time outside of the purview of the debt ceiling agreement, right here in our own committee,” Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., said at the markup. “It’s just plain wrong. It takes us off the promising path that we have started on to get our fiscal house back in order.“

The Senate Appropriations panel approved its Energy-Water, State-Foreign Operations and Transportation-HUD bills Thursday. Murray announced that next week the panel would take up the Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Interior-Environment and Homeland Security bills.

Manchin’s comments about the emergency add-ons Thursday came during consideration of the State-Foreign Operations bill.

Collins argued that even with the addition, the measure’s total $61.6 billion price tag was below the current fiscal year’s comparable funding. An aide said the reduction came out to $150 million.

“I want to point out that this bill, as well as many of the others that we have approved, are actually below last year’s funding levels as enacted in the omnibus bill. And so the idea that these are fiscally irresponsible is countered by that fact,” Collins said.

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