House Republicans prepare for government funding fight

House Republicans this week are laying the groundwork for the fight to fund the government later this year, trying to pass party-line legislation with deep spending cuts and culture war proposals that could set off broader spending battles in the months ahead.

Funding for the federal government expires on Sept. 30, and the House is considering all 12 appropriations bills — or annual spending legislation — in an attempt to avert a shortage of resources and a resulting government shutdown.

But the GOP versions of those bills largely abandon the deal on spending limits that congressional Republicans reached with President Biden last year, and they include dozens of aggressive social policy provisions.

Together, these would likely doom the bills’ chances in the Democratic-controlled Senate, forcing Congress to move toward approving a stopgap funding legislation, called a continuing resolution, or CR, to avert a shutdown on Oct. 1. That would delay substantive discussions on government funding until after the November elections.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Tuesday that he expects a final state funding package to be ready between November and the start of the new year.

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But the bill draws a line that Republicans hope to maintain in major spending negotiations, especially after the conference’s right-wing faction rebelled against this year’s funding bills, complaining that the measures were too narrowly tailored to Democratic priorities.

“These are not final products. These are negotiating positions,” Cole said.

House Democrats lamented that a partisan approach to government funding bills was counterproductive.

“None of these bills, any of them, will be signed into law the way they’re written now. We all know that,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) said at a hearing Tuesday.

This week the House is scheduled to vote on bills to fund the Defense, Homeland Security and State departments, which cost about $950 billion. The majority of this amount — $833 billion — will fund the Defense Department, which is $8 billion more than the current budget. financial year,

Last week, the House passed a $378.6 billion funding measure for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs that included a 9 percent increase in discretionary spending.

But to pay for that increase, Cole proposes deep cuts to the rest of the federal government. Under the House legislation, the State Department would see a 6 percent cut this year followed by an 11 percent cut next year. The measure funding the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services, which are key Democratic priorities, would also be cut by 11 percent.

The Homeland Security bill is the most controversial of the funding proposals, directly targeting the Biden administration’s immigration policies. Under it, the White House would spend $600 million to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and cut back $650 million in shelter services for illegal immigrants awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings.

The measure may not be aggressive enough for some Republicans, who are considering adding an amendment to enforce tough Trump-era immigration restrictions. GOP leadership hopes to use the funding bill to force Democrats to vote tougher on immigration before the election.

“It’s the border, it’s the border, it’s the border,” Rep. Mark Amodei (Nev.), the lead Republican negotiator on the Homeland Security bill, said Wednesday.

Other policy provisions included in each bill would force votes on additional controversial topics. The defense bill would prohibit military service members from traveling for reproductive health care and fund activities that “bring the military into disrepute, such as drag queen story hours for children or the use of drag queens as military recruiters.”

The State Department legislation would ban funding for the main aid group in Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Some Democrats have demanded more U.S. money be sent to the agency. Israel has accused UNRWA staff of participating in the October 7 terrorist attack that launched the now eight-month-old war.

The bill would also ban the use of federal funds to help Gazans resettle in the United States.

“The priorities in this bill are really simple and straightforward. If you’re a friend or an ally of the United States, this bill supports you. But if you’re an adversary, or in cahoots with our adversaries, frankly, you’re not going to like this bill,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida), the lead Republican on the bill. The negotiator said at a hearing on Tuesday.

In the upcoming House GOP funding bill, appropriators have indicated plans to defund parts of the FBI in retaliation for investigations into former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents.

Biden struck a deal for 2023 spending with then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in May, but a GOP revolt over the deal led to McCarthy being ousted a few months later. With that in mind, Cole and new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) opted to abandon a portion of the arrangement that called for $69 billion in spending that wouldn’t count against the annual budget cap signed by Biden and McCarthy. Republicans have taken to calling that spending a “side deal.”

But Cole on Tuesday left open the possibility that the funds could come back during negotiations with the Senate and the White House.

“I think from a Democratic perspective they’re going to be back in play. And I think the Senate wants more money, not less, so I expect all of those things will come up,” Cole said.

Democrats worry that eliminating this funding would lead to a massive reduction in federal resources.

“You’re talking about massive cuts to basic public services and protections that the American people are not going to like, including most Republican voters,” said Michael Linden, a senior fellow at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and a former Biden budget official, warning of “deep cuts” to education, public safety and science funding. “That’s what you have to do. You don’t have $70 billion of unpopular, unnecessary, unsupported programs in the federal government.”

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