Deadline Looms: Will Congress Risk Shutdown Or Compromise?

With just over a week before Congress runs out of time to fund portions of the government, many conservative Republicans, including a member of the Oklahoma delegation, are pushing the Speaker of the House into a possible no-win situation: risk a government shutdown or risk being ousted like his predecessor.

Thursday, February 22nd 2024, 5:35 pm

By: News On 6, News 9, Alex Cameron


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With just over a week before Congress runs out of time to fund portions of the government, many conservative Republicans, including a member of the Oklahoma delegation, are pushing the Speaker of the House into a possible no-win situation: risk a government shutdown or risk being ousted like his predecessor.

The goal of the far-right Freedom Caucus from the very start of the appropriations process, has been to drastically cut spending and, in doing so, enact conservative policy changes. Right now, they’re worried they may not get either one.

"Our entire discretionary budget now is borrowed money," said Rep. Josh Brecheen, a self-described fiscal hawk and member of the Freedom Caucus.

Brecheen has been suggesting for months the best way to cut spending might be by triggering a condition of last year's Fiscal Responsibility Act negotiated by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden to raise the debt ceiling. The legislation set spending caps for FY 2024 -- which Brecheen and the Freedom Caucus feel were not austere enough -- but also stipulated that if no budget was in place by April 30, all appropriations would cut one percent.

"I think a lot of people are looking at the 1 percent cut that was the shining spot of the deal last summer," Brecheen said in an interview back in December. "One percent reduction across the board."

This week, the Freedom Caucus, increasingly aware that few, if any of their hoped-for policy riders on abortion, gun rights, and other hot-button cultural issues will make it into the final versions of the appropriations bills being negotiated, sent a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson. The letter included a demand for an update on the appropriations bills, the status of their various policy goals, and a warning that he was likely to lose their support if he opted to go down a bipartisan path with Democrats: "[W]hy would we proceed," they wrote, "when we could instead pass a year-long funding resolution that would save Americans $100 billion in year one?"

But a year-long continuing resolution (CR) would be opposed by Democrats, as well as many more moderate Republicans.

"The people that want a year-long CR, interestingly enough, originally didn’t want a year-long CR," said Oklahoma's Tom Cole in an interview last month. "It’s really not a good way to govern."

Rep. Cole (R-OK4) is intent on passing negotiated appropriations bills, if possible, before the two upcoming funding deadlines, March 1 and March 8. He says a year-long CR is a bad idea for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that he says it would cut defense spending by $40 billion.

"We would lose the $28 billion increase we have," said Cole, "would put at risk the 5 percent pay increase for men and women in uniform, [and] really important projects at places like Tinker and Fort Sill."

Whatever happens, will happen quickly. The House returns next Wednesday, with that first funding deadline just two days later.

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