House GOP delays work on funding bill amid conservative demands
House Republicans are delaying consideration of a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded past Friday amid growing divisions over their year-end strategy.
The House Rules Committee had planned to meet later Tuesday afternoon to prepare a short-term bill to fund the government through Dec. 22.
But the panel reversed course and announced it will instead meet Wednesday afternoon. That would indicate a Thursday vote on the spending measure, bringing lawmakers closer to the Friday deadline.
House Republicans met for more than an hour on Tuesday morning to discuss the path forward on the government funding bill as the conservative House Freedom Caucus pushed to extend the deadline in the bill to Dec. 30.
“The point is we’re having the kind of family discussion that we need to have about how to proceed forward with a majority,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters after the meeting.
Freedom Caucus members want to push the deadline to after Christmas because they worry the Dec. 22 deadline would increase the possibility that lawmakers would accept a spending package with extraneous measures, such as immigration and ObamaCare, to end work and return home for the holidays.
But other lawmakers are skeptical that a Dec. 30 deadline would make much difference, given that they’ll want to leave Washington to be home for the New Year’s holiday as well.
“I don’t see a functional difference. One, you’re up against Christmas, the other, New Year’s,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.).
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said leadership also committed Tuesday morning to not relying on Democratic votes to pass the funding bill. That could prove a challenge, as Republican leaders have in the past struggled to garner 218 GOP votes for spending legislation.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said his team met with Ryan before the conference meeting to inform him they may be open to a stopgap bill that lasts until Dec. 22.
“So we’ll see how that happens or lays out today, and then get the tally and see if that’s the will of the conference,” Walker told reporters.
Even if Republicans can get 218 of their own members to pass a spending patch this week on their own, it’s still unclear whether it can pass in the Senate.
At least eight Senate Democrats or independents would need to vote to break a filibuster. Democrats have not yet indicated their position.
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that accommodating demands from the Freedom Caucus could make it harder to get a government funding deal.
“If they cooperate with Democrats they can accomplish something. To just let the Freedom Caucus dictate [is] a recipe for chaos,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.
– Scott Wong and Melanie Zanona contributed.