Hard-line Republicans in the House are itching for fights over opening an impeachment inquiry into President Biden and extracting deep spending cuts even at the risk of a government shutdown.
Their eagerness to fight isn’t just with Biden and Democrats, but also with Republicans in their conference worried about the political risks of an impeachment fight and a shutdown.
Those dynamics pose yet another challenge for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), whose job is to unify his conference.
“I’m tired of all these Republicans hiding behind, ‘Oh, but they’ll say it’s a shutdown. And they’ll say that you’re defunding law enforcement with [the Department of Homeland Security].’ That is all bullshit,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
“The truth is we’re using the power that we were given to force change because you don’t pay people not to do their job.”
Allies of McCarthy are among those putting the pressure on him.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has repeatedly offered support for McCarthy, said she will not vote to fund the government unless the House opens an impeachment inquiry into Biden.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), decidedly not a McCarthy ally, suggested he could force a vote on ousting the Speaker if he does not push forward on investigations of Biden and other officials.
“[I]f Speaker McCarthy stands in our way, he may not have the job long,” Gaetz wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
More moderate members of the House say there is not enough evidence to move forward on an impeachment inquiry and are pushing leadership to reach a compromise with Democrats to keep the government open.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said the GOP needs “more concrete evidence” to open an impeachment inquiry. And last week, the executive counsel of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus sent Congressional leaders a letter urging them “to put differences aside and sit down together in the spirit of bipartisanship every single day until a solution is reached” on appropriations bills.
Lawmakers have precious little time to reach a funding deal. When the House returns Tuesday, there will be only 11 legislative days left before the end-of-month deadline.
Most agree a continuing resolution or “CR” will be needed to keep the government open and buy more time to negotiate annual funding measures.
But even that will be tough because the House Freedom Caucus last month said it would not support a short-term measure to fund the government unless it addresses the situation at the border, the “weaponization” of the Department of Justice and “woke policies in the Pentagon.”
Separately, the Republican Study Committee, a group a vast majority of 175 House Republicans belong to, said it wanted to ensure a stopgap measure was filled with “high priority conservative policies” and funded the government at levels in line with the Limit, Save, Grow Act — a spending cuts and policy reforms bill that Republicans passed as a starting point for debt ceiling increase negotiations with Democrats.
Some hard-liners say policy concessions won’t be enough.
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) called the policy asks “a distraction and a decoy,” explaining that he did sign on to the Freedom Caucus position even though he is a member of the group.
“I told everyone at that time, do you think that these are truly — these policies are truly going to be implemented? And no one said that they thought that they were. And I was like, then let’s be honest with the American people,” Rosendale said.
Adding to the funding mess is the White House’s $40 billion supplemental request, which is already causing a stir on Capitol Hill.
The White House request unveiled last month includes $24 billion for Ukraine — sparking another controversy. Senate leaders from both parties want to pass the full supplemental, which also includes disaster funding. But many House Republicans in the right flank are vehemently opposed to any more funding for Ukraine.
Some conservatives say they aren’t worried about a shutdown, either, if it stops the government from continuing on its current spending trajectory. Yet history suggests if a shutdown is blamed on the GOP, it will not be good politics — particularly for vulnerable Republican moderates in swing districts.
Democrats are already working to pin the blame on Republicans if the government shuts down.
“I think Leader McCarthy knows that if a shutdown happens, it’ll be caused by House Republicans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week. “It’ll be bad for the country, but it’ll also be very bad for them.”
McCarthy has argued against bringing Washington to a screeching halt by saying it would in turn hurt GOP-led investigations into Biden that are fueling calls for an impeachment inquiry.
“If we shut down, all the government shuts it down, investigation and everything else. It hurts the American public,” McCarthy said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures” in August.
But that line of reasoning is not flying with hard-line conservatives like Rosendale.
“I will not be intimidated into falling for this false argument that we can’t continue to pursue impeachment inquiries or issue subpoenas,” Rosendale said.
The House this week will resume consideration of individual appropriations bills, with a measure to fund the Department of Defense on deck. More than 330 amendments to the legislation have been submitted.
Some hard-liners, however, are signaling they will withhold support from any funding bills unless they see the total spending for all 12 appropriations bills — a figure they have been requesting for months.
It all points to a tempestuous September, increased worries about a shutdown and another difficult stretch for McCarthy as conservatives prime themselves for battle.
“September is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. As we head into this government funding battle, I urge my @HouseGOP colleagues to stay vigilant and not lose their backbones this time. #NoSecurityNoFunding,” Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) wrote on X.