Half a dozen House Republicans announced a proposed deal Sunday to temporarily fund the government with the goal of averting a shutdown at the end of the month. But it is far from certain that the proposal would unite their fractious conference to send a bill to the Senate, where it is expected to be rejected.
The short-term funding bill would keep the government running until Oct. 31 and trigger a 1 percent cut to current fiscal levels, according to the plan released just before lawmakers were briefed Sunday evening.
The 1 percent cut is an average for the federal budget. The Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs would not receive any cuts, while other government agencies would have their budgets slashed by 8 percent until the end of October.
The effort is meant to garner support from hard-right lawmakers who demanded significant cuts to support a short-term funding extension.
The short-term extension would include a border security bill that House Republicans passed through their narrow ranks earlier this year but would leave out a divisive policy on verifying workers’ immigration status. The plan also includes provisions on the border that will be added to the Homeland Security appropriations bill in an effort to extract concessions from the Senate on the issue when both chambers negotiate on funding the government for a full fiscal year.
Missing from the proposal are requests from President Biden for more than $20 billion in aid for Ukraine and $16 billion in disaster relief. Both Democratic and Republican Senate leaders have said they would tack money for those matters on to any short-term funding bill.
Striking an apparent deal is a significant, albeit small, step for the House Republican Conference, whose leaders must now gather enough support for the measure to pass and fulfill a request by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to show a united conservative front ahead of inevitable negotiations with the Senate.
While many involved in the deal are telegraphing that these parameters should ensure that the bill gets the necessary 218 Republican votes to pass, vocal lawmakers initially panned the development. Several of the conservative demands are also likely to be rejected by the Senate, pitting both chambers against each other with less than a dozen days to spare to prevent a partial government shutdown.
The proposal was not negotiated by leadership. Instead, six House Republican members from two of the five ideological factions — Reps. Dusty Johnson (S.D.), Stephanie I. Bice (Okla.) and Kelly Armstrong (N.D.) from the pragmatic Main Street Caucus; and Reps. Scott Perry (Pa.), Chip Roy (Tex.) and Byron Donalds (Fla.) from the Freedom Caucus — initially met for 2½ hours Wednesday night to hash out parameters of a potential agreement after far-right lawmakers prevented a floor vote funding the Defense Department until demands were met.
“House Freedom Caucus members have worked over the weekend with the Main Street Caucus on a path forward to fund the government and secure America’s border,” Perry said in a statement Sunday. “We now have a framework for our colleagues across the House Republican Conference.”
Earlier on Sunday morning, McCarthy said that he would bring the proposal “to the floor, win or lose.”
“I’ve been through shutdowns, and I’ve never seen somebody win a shutdown. ’Cause when you shut down, you give all your power to the administration,” McCarthy said on “Sunday Morning Futures” on Fox News Channel. “How are you going to win your arguments to secure the border if the border agents don’t get paid?”
Republican lawmakers returned to Washington last week having had some conversations about what their conference could agree on for short-term funding to allow them time to work on full-year appropriation bills, which is a demand the far-right flank made of McCarthy to support him for the speakership earlier this year.
GOP lawmakers from New York, a group that flipped Democratic-held districts and helped clinch the House majority last year, insisted on making border security a priority in the short-term bill given the recent influx of migrants to the state.
McCarthy began last week offering several proposals by largely stressing that a 30-day funding bill include border security and possibly disaster relief aid. McCarthy reiterated to House Republicans that they had to unite in sending funding bills to the Senate to ensure they maintain an upper hand in future negotiations. That message was undercut when House leadership was unable to wrangle enough votes for a noncontroversial procedural hurdle that would have paved the way to pass a Defense Department funding bill.
The latest proposal began to emerge Tuesday during a weekly meeting among lawmakers with the five ideological “families” within the conference, according to people familiar with the ongoing negotiations. During that Elected Leadership Committee gathering, Johnson and Donalds both found common ground to include border security in any deal. Rep. Garret Graves (La.), who was chosen by McCarthy to chair the ELC, tasked both of them with hashing out a conservative funding deal.
By Wednesday evening, Johnson, Donalds and four colleagues worked on broad parameters that would ultimately be proposed. As negotiations continued for three days, more GOP lawmakers were brought in to be briefed and offer feedback on certain provisions.
Rep. Marcus J. Molinaro (N.Y.) was a key negotiator on the immigration issue, multiple people briefed on the process said, serving as a check on what Republicans who represent Biden districts in Democratic states such as New York and California could accept. Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (Tenn.) and David Joyce (Ohio), the chairman for the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, also advised on the issue. A deal was ultimately struck Saturday evening.
Johnson and Donalds briefed their colleagues about the deal on the call. Several lawmakers rebuked it, asking for guarantees that no money would ultimately be added by the Senate on Ukraine and for spending levels to stay low.
“I’m a NO,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), a staunch ally of McCarthy who has often sided with him over her far-right colleagues, wrote on X. “No money for Ukraine, COVID, or weaponized Gov. America First!”
While the proposal does not include money for Ukraine, hard-right lawmakers do not support extending government funds for fighting the coronavirus or for the Justice Department, which many Republicans claim is unfairly targeting former president Donald Trump.
Republicans will now return to the Capitol on Monday with the goal of uniting all flanks of the conference to support passing the deal. The House Rules Committee is set to meet Monday, teeing up a procedural vote for as early as Tuesday.
Republican leaders now face the difficult task of ensuring the bill passes through their razor-thin margins. Given the conservative provisions included in the proposal, Democrats are not expected to help pass the bill.
The first test for leaders will be a vote on a procedural hurdle, known as the rule, which sets parameters for debating the bill on the floor before passage. Members of the Freedom Caucus and lawmakers who oppose McCarthy have previously threatened voting against the rule, which traditionally only passes with the majority party’s votes.
It will still be tricky for McCarthy to get agreement on what’s typically a noncontroversial rule that sets up parameters for debate ahead of passing a bill to the Senate. If McCarthy relies on Democrats to approve a rule or a final passage, it would anger far-right lawmakers who spent last week threatening that such a move would trigger a motion to vacate him from the speakership.
The GOP conference began the year with only five votes to spare, but is now down to four after the retirement of Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) last week. Further complicating the math is that a few other Republicans are battling illnesses, and two more are at home with newborn children.
Even though the deal meets demands previously made by the House Freedom Caucus, some lawmakers within the group remain unconvinced.
Rep. Cory Mills (Fla.) posted on X that if border security is just being added to the bill to entice the Senate to negotiate and compromise on Ukraine aid, he will vote against the deal.
“I’m sick of the DC backroom deals to appease 61 in the Senate and not going to play this game,” he said. “Enough is enough!”
“I’m with Cory. No CR,” Rep. Dan Bishop (N.C.) said on X, referencing the short-term extension proposal.
While McCarthy has often tried to appease his hard-right flank, he must also earn support from vulnerable incumbents representing swing districts in his conference to ensure funding bills pass. Deep spending cuts to current fiscal levels would fuel Democratic attack ads highlighting how these Republicans voted in support of cuts to education, food security inspection and more.
Others in the conference remain unconvinced based on policy differences, signaling just how difficult it will be for House Republican leaders and their allies to win over enough support just to send a bill to the Senate — where it is expected to be denied.
‘It’s crystal clear a Gov’t shutdown is coming. I represent 66% of the Texas-Mexico border,” Rep. Tony Gonzales (Tex.) said on X. “A hollow continuing resolution built to win a message battle does nothing to keep America safe.”