Freedom Caucus backs funding bill, clearing way for House passage

Freedom Caucus backs funding bill, clearing way for House passage
© Greg Nash

The House Freedom Caucus has endorsed a deal with GOP leadership to support a short-term government funding bill, putting the House on track to pass the stopgap measure Thursday night and send it to the Senate.

The caucus endorsed the deal Thursday night, after warning they had the votes to defeat it earlier in the day.

While the deal sets the stage for House passage, it does not ensure that Congress will avoid a government shutdown Friday night.

Senate Democrats, supported by at least three Republicans, said they have the votes to block the initial House bill in the upper chamber. And the new changes, designed to attract conservatives, could alienate even more Senate Democrats.

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Still, Republicans are at least on track to approve a funding bill in the House, in hopes of putting pressure on Senate Democrats to back down. 

The deal came after Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsDischarge petition efforts intensify as leadership seeks unity Republicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Immigration petition hits 204 as new Republican signs on MORE (R-N.C.) emerged from a meeting in Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDischarge petition efforts intensify as leadership seeks unity Republicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Immigration petition hits 204 as new Republican signs on MORE’s (R-Wis.) office saying leadership had promised to have separate votes to help improve military readiness and address other national security issues. They would not be attached to the stopgap continuing resolution (CR), he added.

"Obviously, I would be recommending to our caucus, based on what I just heard, that we support the president in this particular initiative," he said.

Meadows outlined the contours of the deal to reporters just before the House floor vote Thursday night on the continuing resolution.

In exchange for Freedom Caucus support on the funding bill, Meadows said leadership promised to hold a vote within the next 10 legislative days on a defense spending bill that busts the spending caps for defense programs.

"Our major ask in all of this has been that we break this cycle that has held our military hostage," Meadows said.

A source familiar with the discussion noted that leadership had already made that commitment to House Armed Services Committee members a day earlier.

Leaders also pledged to "work aggressively" to whip an immigration bill authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteRepublicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Immigration petition hits 204 as new Republican signs on GOP centrists threaten to use conservative’s weapon against them MORE (R-Va.) and to bring conservative immigration legislation to the House floor in the coming weeks. Ryan and his top lieutenants, who have been publicly supportive of the Goodlatte bill, agreed to put together a team to help work the measure harder.

But the legislation has to be able to secure 218 GOP votes to get a floor vote. Meadows predicted that the measure that winds up being put on the floor will look like a modified version of the Goodlatte bill.

Some Republicans had taken issue with a provision in the Goodlatte measure requiring employers taking advantage of an agricultural guest worker program to use "E-verify" to ensure they only hire legal employees.

The proposals floated in the Freedom Caucus deal were offered by GOP leadership, but have the stamp of approval from President TrumpDonald John TrumpCEO of American investment firm believed Michael Cohen could bring in GOP donors for deals: report NAACP slams NFL for gag rule on national anthem Pelosi: Republican meeting over informant will 'nix' possibility of bipartisan briefing MORE, according to Meadows.

"There are certainly a lot of subplots that I am not articulating right now that we did get, that... I will not be mentioning in terms of other things,” he said.

Meadows also asked GOP leaders to release a classified report from the House Intelligence Committee, according to a source familiar with the discussion, but his request was rejected on the grounds that they can’t skirt House rules.

The Speaker deferred to Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesFormer intel director: The intent was not to spy on Trump’s campaign Bowing to pressure, White House to host bipartisan briefing on Russia investigation The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote MORE (R-Calif.) on the issue.

Bloomberg reported that the classified information in question was a memo put together by Republicans on the panel, which reportedly shows political bias in the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.

Members of the Freedom Caucus, a band of roughly 30 conservative hard-liners, were previously withholding their support from the House GOP bill, despite a call from Trump into their meeting Thursday afternoon.

The White House said in a statement that Trump backed the House bill.

The House vote on the CR is scheduled for Thursday evening and the caucus warned earlier in the day they had enough opposition to sink its passage in the House.

However, Meadows had strongly suggested that he would accept the new deal.

"[Ryan] put forth a few things for our caucus to consider that would actually be beneficial to the military and our focus on the military needs going forward," Meadows said.

Meadows then urged the rest of the caucus to accept the offer. The group met in Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHannity endorses Jim Jordan for Speaker Conservatives leery of FBI deal on informant House conservatives introduce resolution calling for second special counsel MORE’s (R-Ohio) office to take a vote.

Updated: 8:41 p.m.