WASHINGTON — A faction of far-right Republicans has all but promised to threaten to shut down the government if the GOP retakes the House of Representatives in the next election, putting Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a precarious position.
Members of the Freedom Caucus have said they will oppose any government funding bill that expires before the next Congress, when Republicans could control the chamber and have more clout to make demands.
“We should not fund a government that continues to allow open borders to endanger the American people,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said Wednesday on the floor alongside Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa. ).
It is an illustration of the challenges McCarthy, the current House Minority Leader, will face if his party prevails in November’s midterm elections, especially if he wins by a slim margin, which seems increasingly possible.
Earlier this year, polls suggested Republicans would retake the House in a “red wave,” giving them gargantuan majorities. But the polls have changed, and the latest analysis of Cook Political report says only 212 races currently lean Republican, while 31 are unpredictable.
Republicans need 218 for control. They could end up with a majority as slim as the Democrats’ current four-seat cushion, which was barely enough to pass some token police reform bills this week.
Meanwhile in initial letter from Roy this week on opposing a short-term financing bill garnered 41 signatures from fellow Republicansand McCarthy has said he, too, would vote against it.
Government funding is due at the end of next week, but Democrats plan to pass a so-called continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown and give current lawmakers time for a more comprehensive funding bill after the midterms but before let new ones settle. Democrats can pass the resolution without help from Republicans.
The Freedom Caucus would prefer to wait until early next year, when the Republican Party may have more power, to vote on government funding.
“If we don’t get changes next week and we get a rolling resolution through December, we should demand changes in December,” Roy said in his speech. “And if we don’t get the change in December, we should demand the change in January, February or March.”
The problem is that even if Republicans hold both houses of Congress, Democrats will still have filibuster in the Senate and veto power in the White House. The Freedom Caucus wants maximalist changes on immigration, energy, and vaccines, but will settle for a government shutdown if it can’t get them.
“I’m not interested in funding idiotic bureaucrats who are making my people less safe in Texas,” Roy told HuffPost on Thursday. “If Biden wants to take down the government, that’s up to him.”
Roy served as chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during the infamous 17-day shutdown he helped lead in 2013. The move failed to defund then-President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, But Roy noted that “Cruz did pretty well in 2016,” when he came a distant second to Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary.
A spending showdown is unlikely in early 2023. Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations committees are staging an unsuccessful vote on a general spending bill that would fund the government. see you next year.
Rep. Tom Cole, a veteran Republican appropriator from Oklahoma, told HuffPost that a short-term spending bill that requires high-stakes votes in February or March would be unfair to newly elected lawmakers still settling into their seats. Offices. And he suggested that it would be useless to try to set up the Freedom Caucus.
“You can’t write an appropriations bill with a Democratic president and think he’s going to get everything he wants,” Cole said.
“I am not interested in funding idiotic bureaucrats who are making my people less safe in Texas.”
– Representative Chip Roy (R-Texas)
But the Freedom Caucus will have other opportunities to exert its influence. Sometime next year, Congress will need to raise the federal borrowing limit, allowing the government to continue spending money as lawmakers have already required.
Conservative Republicans have increasingly sought to hold the government’s solvency hostage to other demands. Just this month, Trump complained that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “dumped him for nothing” last year.
A Speaker McCarthy would face a choice: side with the Freedom Caucus and threaten a national debt default, with potentially catastrophic economic consequences, or work with the Democrats and risk his role as leader.
The Freedom Caucus required earlier this year for a Republican House to pass bills only with a “majority majority,” meaning it would not approve of McCarthy passing a bill with Democratic votes. It is no accident that he, too, has sought a change in House procedure that would make it easier to expel the speaker.
One member of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), suggested that McCarthy has done a good job getting along with different Republican factions and might not have such a bad time. After all, McCarthy survived an audio recording that revealed that he was thinking about telling Trump to resign from the presidency after the Jan. 6, 2001, riots on Capitol Hill.
“Do you remember when those comments came out? They stayed with him, which I think is proof of his efforts to close that gap,” Green said.
Most importantly, Trump has stuck with McCarthy, apparently delighted with the leader’s efforts to locate him.
Roy declined to say whether he would support a Republican House riot in a hypothetical scenario in which McCarthy works with Democrats. Instead, he pointed out that McCarthy had backed the Freedom Caucus in the fight for low-risk spending.
“That’s a good sign,” said Roy.