With the House GOP fumbling as it attempts to reach an internal agreement on how to avoid a government shutdown, Republicans are scrambling to come up with a plan B.
But moderates and conservatives are heading in opposite directions on possible paths forward after GOP leaders pulled a procedural vote on a partisan stopgap funding bill proposal.
On the moderate side, members are quietly exploring how to move forward on spending issues with the help of Democrats.
“I think we should cut our losses at this point, and start working bipartisan,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said Tuesday morning that while there is not a bipartisan plan in place, members of the group are “talking about possible ideas.”
By the afternoon, Bacon said that the group was working on a plan but not yet ready to unveil it.
“We’ve got to start thinking out of the box. And the sooner we do it, the sooner these five to ten people become irrelevant,” Bacon said.
He was referring to conservative members who have roiled the slim GOP majority over spending issues for months — and whose demands have become all the more potent ahead of a Sept. 30 shutdown deadline.
In a demonstration of that Tuesday, five hard-line conservative members sank a procedural vote on advancing a House GOP Pentagon appropriations bill over demands for lower spending levels across all appropriations bills that the House passes. The members argue that passing the bills at a topline level of $1.471 trillion, to match fiscal 2022, would set the House up for the best negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate over funding over the next year.
But before the appropriations process can be completed, Congress must contend with a Sept. 30 shutdown deadline.
Leaders of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus and the more “pragmatic” Main Street Caucus unveiled a continuing resolution (CR) plan over the weekend to fund the government through Oct. 31, with an 8 percent cut for everything but the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the bulk of the House GOP H.R. 2 border crackdown bill.
But the attempt to project GOP unity on an idealized bill before heading into negotiations with the Senate was quickly foiled after more than a dozen conservatives swiftly announced their opposition to the bill.
As GOP leaders pulled a procedural vote on the plan, a flurry of GOP members met in House Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s (R-Minn.) office to discuss possible adjustments to the bill.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) proposed an amendment related to funding for independent counsels for the Department of Justice, in a nod to GOP gripes about government “weaponization.”
Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, pitched an amendment to revise the spending cuts portion of the continuing resolution to match the fiscal 2022 levels laid out in the “Limit, Save, Grow Act,” the House GOP debt limit bill from earlier this year that was the precursor to the debt limit bill that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) later struck with President Biden.
Some of the holdouts, including Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), indicated support for that change — but only with the caveat that the overall House GOP goes back to craft appropriations bills at the $1.471 trillion fiscal 2022 levels, the issue that also fueled opposition to the defense appropriations bill procedural rule.
“I don’t think we have the votes for a CR right now without some other kind of agreement on topline approps,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) said emerging from Emmer’s office Tuesday evening.
Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), meanwhile, said: “I won’t support a CR at all.”
Some moderates dismissed the idea of adjusting the spending levels, expressing frustration with quibbles on a bill that will not pass the Senate anyway.
“Some of these guys are just not going to vote for anything. I’m of the opinion that we need to work across the aisle, because you got to get Senate support anyway,” Bacon said.
“Let’s deal with reality and not fantasy land,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said when asked about the proposal to adjust the numbers.
Moderates are increasingly expressing their displeasure with conservative blockades.
Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) led a press conference with House GOP military veterans following the procedural rule for the defense bill failing.
“I’m disappointed. I’m pissed off,” Garcia said. He added that the five members who sunk the procedural vote “handed a win to the Chinese Communist Party as a result of this vote.”
Lawler also led a press conference with Republicans who represent districts that Biden won in 2020.
“There’s certainly a level of frustration with what some of our colleagues are doing in terms of how they are going about negotiating within the conference,” Lawler said. “None of us support a shutdown.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who helped craft the CR proposal, argued in favor of Republicans coalescing behind a movable CR plan and warned about moderates going a different direction.
“The risk here is that we’re going to have some of our more moderate members who are going to say, ‘You know what, I’m washing my hands of this. I’m going to accept the clean CR from the Senate,’” Roy said on Sean Hannity’s radio show Tuesday.
Aris Folley and Mychael Schnell contributed.