House Freedom Caucus urges Republicans to vote against spending package

The House Freedom Caucus is urging Republicans to vote against the government funding package coming to the floor this week, formally staking their opposition to the bundle of bills that are meant to avoid a partial shutdown on Friday.

In an official position released Tuesday, the conservative group slammed the sprawling package — which includes six bills and is known as a “minibus” — for its exclusion of some controversial policy riders, inclusion of several earmarks, and its price tag.

The hardliners also knocked the legislation for moving as a package rather than holding votes on each of the six appropriations bills, arguing that it is one half of an omnibus spending bill — the sprawling, typically end-of-year funding measures that Republicans abhor.

And they criticized leadership’s decision to consider the package under suspension of the rules, a fast-track process that requires two-thirds support for passage and eliminates the need to first pass a procedural rule — which the right flank likely would have tanked.

“The House Freedom Caucus opposes the $1.65 trillion omnibus spending bill, which will be decided in two halves, the first being brought to the floor this week under suspension of the rules,” the group wrote in a statement. “Even in the face of $34.4 trillion in national debt, the omnibus will bust the bipartisan spending caps signed into law less than a year ago and is loaded with hundreds of pages of earmarks worth billions.”

“Despite giving Democrats higher spending levels, the omnibus text released so far punts on nearly every single Republican policy priority,” it added. “Worst of all, the omnibus surrenders Republicans’ leverage to force radical Democrats to the table to truly secure the southern border and end the purposeful, dangerous mass release of illegal aliens into the United States.”

The group predicted that the minibus will pass the House this week with more support from Democrats than Republicans — which has been the case for all other bipartisan spending measures cleared this Congress.

“As with other recent spending bills, it is likely this omnibus receives more Democrat than Republican support,” the statement reads. “House Freedom Caucus Members urge all Republicans to oppose both halves of the omnibus.”

The conservative opposition is unlikely to endanger the package’s chances of passing the House this week. Most Democrats and several Republicans are expected to line up behind the legislation, giving it enough support to clear the chamber.

It could, however, spell trouble for Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) standing as leader of the GOP conference. Headliners have hammered the Speaker for his handling of spending matters, which is likely to increase this week as he moves forward with the minibus. Conservatives, however, have said they are not ready to force a vote on ousting Johnson, which was what happened to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Congressional leaders on Sunday unveiled the spending package that includes six bills due on Friday, which has funding for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Energy, Interior, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, among other programs and agencies.

The remaining six bills lapse on March 22.

Conservatives have railed against the legislation since its introduction over the weekend, bashing Johnson and GOP leadership for moving forward with the bipartisan, bicameral deal instead of utilizing the idea favored by hardliners: to pass a continuing resolution that funds the government through the end of the fiscal year.

That option would trigger a one-percent cut across the board, a mechanism included in the debt limit deal cleared last year as a way to incentivize Congress to complete the appropriations process on time.

The right flank for months has looked to funding the government as a source of leverage to enact deep spending cuts and implement policy riders on a host of hot-button issues, including abortion, border security and slashing the salaries of certain administration officials.

Last month, the Freedom Caucus penned a letter to Johnson re-upping their policy rider requests and warning that, without those additions, he should not expect widespread support on the appropriations bills.

The minibus introduced over the weekend up for consideration this week excludes a number of those policy riders and increases spending from 2023 levels, details that have angered House conservatives.

It does, however, include cuts to funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and it includes a provision that prevents the sale of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China, details Republicans have touted as wins in the measure.

“In the #SwampOmnibus, the @HouseGOP SURRENDERS key demands passed in House approps bills. This means MORE ILLEGALS, LESS FREEDOM,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the group, wrote on X.

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