The seeds of a plan to avoid a partial government shutdown appeared to be germinating Thursday in the House, which could allow conservative Republicans to vote for an initial stopgap funding bill to strengthen their hand in talks with the Senate.
Spearheading the intraparty talks were Main Street Caucus members Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma and Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, and Freedom Caucus members Chip Roy of Texas, Byron Donalds of Florida and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
The group met for several hours Wednesday night with border security a focal point of the talks. Donalds and Roy said Thursday that talks were ongoing and involved other members of the GOP conference as well.
“We’re having serious conversations about what we think a path forward is. And so we’ve been working diligently having those talks, but right now we’re still talking,” Donalds said. “I think the majority of members — all the members of our conference — want to see the federal government do its job under law, which includes making sure our southern border is secure.”
Conservatives want to attach legislation the House passed in May, in part or as a whole, that would restrict asylum eligibility for migrants journeying to the U.S.-Mexico border, reinstate family detention, heighten penalties for visa overstays and restart border wall construction.
That measure could potentially be combined with cuts to current spending levels that would otherwise be extended in a continuing resolution. Other measures that negotiators could include are provisions to block enforcement of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives rulemakings dealing with pistol braces and background checks for gun owners.
In an opinion piece for The Federalist published Thursday, Roy mentioned those policies, as well as blocking funds for the FBI’s new “multibillion-dollar” headquarters; reimbursing the Texas government for $10 billion it has spent on border security; and removing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas from office.
“There will be some who cower at this notion — claiming we will be ‘blamed’ for shutting down the government,” Roy wrote. “But what we should truly fear is refusing to fight to uphold the Constitution, do what we said we would do, and stand up for American security.”
The stopgap funding and other measures could be paired with a revived fiscal 2024 Defense appropriations bill, which Republicans say already contains conservative priorities such as barring funds for paid leave and travel expenses for employees to obtain abortions.
Roy and other conservatives have a series of further amendments lined up to offer on the floor as part of the rule for floor debate they say are aimed at “woke” policies, such as barring money for Pride Month observance and for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
All of those pieces as well as potentially the Homeland Security appropriations bill could be considered, as soon as next week, which would give the Senate time to respond. That chamber is extremely unlikely to endorse such a package coming over from the House, but it would give senators a vehicle at least to swap in their own CR, which is expected to include supplemental disaster relief and Ukraine aid.
Roy wouldn’t comment on specifics other than to say the border piece is critical and that talks are ongoing.
“We need to make sure that what we’re putting forward is going to address very specifically the failings of this administration one way or the other, and specifically with respect to the border,” he said.
What happens after such a Senate-passed bill comes back over to the House is anyone’s guess, however — and at that point lawmakers are likely to be right up against the Sept. 30 funding deadline.
House Rules Chairman Tom Cole said a CR with a border security measure could win support from Democrats as well as Republicans if it steers clear of contentious immigration issues.
“I don’t know anybody in Congress who doesn’t know somebody who’s lost somebody related to fentanyl. Nobody is in favor of human trafficking. And this has become a real issue for them,” Cole, R-Okla., said of Democrats.
“I just don’t think we’ll shut down,” Cole added. “I do think we’ll try to do something on the border.”
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a Freedom Caucus member, said he didn’t think there was enough time to avoid a shutdown, but didn’t rule out a last-minute deal.
“I don’t know how we can get it done in the time we’ve got left,” Norman said.
The length of a potential stopgap was also the subject of debate. Republicans have discussed a three-to-four-week bill, while Democrats want at least six weeks.
“My view is, let’s look at a CR that carries us into late November, December. Give us the time to negotiate the bills and get it done,” House Appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., told reporters on a call Thursday. “The question is, how long are House Republicans going to drag their feet and how much harm are they going to inflict before they come to the table?”
Laura Weiss contributed to this report.