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House GOP hard-liners lay out stopgap funding demands

Conservative group seeks to add policy riders to a stopgap spending package

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., sits on the Rules Committee, which is critical to getting bills on the floor.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., sits on the Rules Committee, which is critical to getting bills on the floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corrected 8:15 p.m. | The hard-right House Freedom Caucus announced Monday that the group would oppose the stopgap funding measure needed to avert a partial government shutdown next month unless it includes conservatives’ policy priorities relating to overall spending levels, the border, the Justice Department and the military.

The caucus’ position highlights the obstacles that Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., faces next month with just a dozen legislative days after lawmakers return to Washington until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Any controversial add-ons risk losing support from all or almost all Democrats and even some GOP moderates; if all Democrats are present and voting “no,” McCarthy won’t be able to lose more than four votes on his side.

In its statement Monday, the Freedom Caucus said that supporting 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.”

The group vowed to oppose any spending bill that does not include the House-passed immigration and border security bill; does not “address the unprecedented weaponization of the Justice Department and FBI” that the group says has targeted political opponents; and “end the Left’s cancerous woke policies in the Pentagon.”

The border bill passed on a 219-213 vote, with two Republicans voting against it — California’s John Duarte and Kentucky’s Thomas Massie. Massie and Duarte each opposed the legislation over language that would require all employers to electronically verify that new hires can work legally in the U.S.

Massie’s role on the Rules Committee is critical to getting bills on the floor in the first place, and Duarte is one of the most endangered House Republicans. The freshman won his 2022 race by a mere 564 votes, or 0.4 percentage points; Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales considers Duarte’s 2024 race to be a Toss-up.

The Freedom Caucus statement regarding Pentagon policies may be a nod to language the GOP-controlled Appropriations Committee added to its fiscal 2024 Defense spending bill, which panel Democrats opposed.

Such riders include prohibitions on funding to implement the department’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility strategy and associated Biden administration executive orders; to perform surgical procedures or hormone therapies for gender-affirming care; or to “promote, host, facilitate, or support events . . . that violate the Department of Defense Joint Ethics Regulation or bring discredit upon the military, such as a drag queen story hour for children or the use of drag queens as military recruiters.”

President Joe Biden’s $40.1 billion supplemental request, which includes $24.1 billion in assistance for Ukraine and other U.S. allies as well as funding for disaster relief, fentanyl interdiction, migrant support and more, is also facing opposition from the hard-liners.

“We will oppose any blank check for Ukraine in any supplemental appropriations bill,” the caucus stated.

Before the August recess, dissent from the House Freedom Caucus played a role in McCarthy’s inability to pass the Agriculture appropriations bill. The House did pass its Military Construction-VA bill, the only one of the 12 appropriations bills to pass the chamber thus far.

The caucus wants fiscal 2024 appropriations bills at the fiscal 2022 topline level of $1.47 trillion, without factoring in rescissions appropriators are using to bolster overall spending. House appropriators used $115 billion in clawbacks of previous spending to lessen the overall hit to programs in their bills.

The Freedom Caucus said Monday that it opposes short-term funding extensions to set up a December deadline and force the passage of an omnibus. The caucus will “use every procedural tool necessary to prevent that outcome,” the statement said.

McCarthy told his conference during an Aug. 14 conference call that while a continuing resolution will be necessary in September, he also opposes short-term extensions up until the late-December holiday recess.

This report has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., is not a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

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