House lawmakers return to Capitol Hill for the first time in six weeks on Tuesday, but some factions have already begun to draw battle lines for Congress’ coming fight over how to fund the government for the next fiscal year.
The chamber is expected to vote on military funding this week, its second of 12 appropriations bills. Leaders in the House and Senate have both acknowledged that a deal must be struck on a stopgap funding bill, called a continuing resolution, to give both sides more time to reach an agreement.
If no deal is reached by Sept. 30, lawmakers risk sending the government into a partial shutdown.
As Speaker Kevin McCarthy works to build consensus within his House GOP majority, here are five major demands conservatives have made that could force a standoff between McCarthy’s conference and Democrats in charge of the Senate and White House.
Allies of former President Donald Trump in Congress have called for an end to the ‘weaponization’ of the Justice Department in exchange for their support on any spending deal, particularly in the wake of the four indictments launched against the ex-president.
It was also a key part of the House Freedom Caucus’s formal position on agreeing to government funding.
The group called for measures aimed at the DOJ and FBI ‘to focus them on prosecuting real criminals instead of conducting political witch hunts and targeting law-abiding citizens.’
‘Woke’ Pentagon policies
Conservative Republicans are expected to put an emphasis on repealing the Biden administration’s progressive military policies on LGBTQ issues and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts as lawmakers debate the defense spending bill this week.
In an internal memo to lawmakers sent late last month, the 175-member Republican Study Committee (RSC) pointed out that a host of conservative, anti-‘woke’ policy items were passed in the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act in July. It said the bill secured ‘funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) while countering Biden’s woke attacks on military personnel.’
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, suggested to reporters on Monday that the defense appropriations bill might not even survive a floor vote if key demands in that area are not met.
‘If we want to try to get it across the finish line this week, I’m certainly open to having those conversations, but only if we get the policy changes that need to occur,’ Roy said. ‘Why would I fund transgender surgeries? Why would I fund the continued diversity, equity, inclusion officers that are dividing the Pentagon?’
Lower spending levels
McCarthy committed to Republicans to having the House pass appropriations bills at fiscal year 2022 spending levels, despite previously agreeing to roughly freeze spending at fiscal 2023 levels during negotiations with President Biden over raising the debt limit.
It’s already set the House on a collision course with the Senate, which is cobbling together its appropriations bills with toplines outlined by the McCarthy-Biden deal – about $120 billion dollars higher than the House GOP’s.
The demand for lower spending levels appears to be the most widely shared among House conservatives, though lawmakers have not settled on where to make those cuts.
Several hardliners in the GOP conference have called for any government spending deal to attach the party’s border security package, another wish-list item that’s virtually guaranteed to hit a wall of Democrat opposition.
Both the RSC memo and the Freedom Caucus’s official position have called for attaching the Secure the Border Act to an eventual continuing resolution, which lawmakers will likely need to pass to extend the current government funding priorities past Sept. 30 and avoid a shutdown.
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., said last week that he believes there’s a number of Republicans ready to vote against a continuing resolution that does not tackle border issues.
‘We’re basically done with this. It’s time to do the right thing. Secure the southern border,’ Donalds said.
While a significant number of House Republicans still appear wary of launching impeachment proceedings against President Biden, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., among the most vocal conservatives in the chamber, has made it a requirement of her support for a spending deal.
‘I’ve already decided: I will not vote to fund the government unless we have passed an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden,’ Greene told constituents at a town hall.
However, not all members of McCarthy’s right flank agree. Roy told reporters on Monday that impeachment and government spending are, and should be, two separate processes.