A decision by House Republicans to write spending bills below the caps established in the recent debt ceiling deal is reportedly setting the stage for a partisan clash with Senate Democrats and the White House that could lead to a government shutdown in the fall.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Biden brokered the “Fiscal Responsibility Act” which successfully passed in the House and Senate earlier this month, suspending the debt ceiling until 2025 in exchange for spending cuts.
In retaliation against the debt deal nearly a dozen conservative Republican lawmakers, led by the far-right Freedom Caucus, staged a mini-revolt in the House last Tuesday, holding up legislation for the rest of the week.
Though McCarthy reached a truce with those lawmakers on Monday, allowing several held-up messaging bills to go forward, conservatives like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have warned that their revolt has not been entirely rescinded.
McCarthy is now balking at the discretionary spending figures that he agreed to in the debt deal that was passed in both chambers along bipartisan lines.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee is leading Republicans who intend to mark up their 2024 spending bills at lower, 2022 levels, estimated to cut an additional $120 billion in federal outlays.
That’s a non-starter with Democrats.
“[I]t’s our view that a resolution was reached and was voted on in a bipartisan way,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said of the debt ceiling deal.
He added, “Why did we try avoiding a default to make sure that America pays its bills with a topline spending agreement? What was it all for? Because now all we’re engaging in is right-wing theater designed to jam extreme, painful cuts down the throats of the American people. And Democrats will not let it happen.”
But more than just conservative members of the Republican Party are expressing that they’re fed up with government spending.
The debt ceiling deal “was not a cut,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) who represents a purple district, said on Tuesday. “And so what I think is, if I’m correct, they’ll go through the appropriations process, and then in the Senate, and it’ll come back and it won’t be what we said it was going to be….It certainly creates a problem.”
But Speaker McCarthy earlier this month stated, “We never promised we’re going to be all at ’22 levels. I said we would strive to get to the ’22 level, or the equivalent of that amount in cuts.”
The new fiscal year starts October 1.
“There is a prospect that we could be at an impasse come into September,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), Chair of a House Appropriations subcommittee. “This governing majority of ours doesn’t need to be toying around with shutting down the government.”