Senate Republicans are bracing for the worst after the House Freedom Caucus forced Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s hand into rewriting government funding bills below the levels agreed upon in the bipartisan debt ceiling deal. This decision has raised objections from both Republican and Democratic appropriators in the Senate, who now face the challenge of passing a funding bill before September.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the No. 5 Senate Republican and an Appropriations Committee member, expressed worry, emphasizing the need to adhere to the agreed-upon numbers but acknowledging the difficulty of reaching a resolution. With limited time and an August recess, the Senate has eight working weeks to address the issue.
“It’s going to be a problem,” Moore Capito told The Hill. “I don’t want to co-opt what Sen. [Susan] Collins might say, but … we struck an agreement that will write to those numbers.”
“We’ll go into a collaborative conference, try to hash it out,” Capito continued. “But I don’t think it’s going to be easy.”
The decision to set spending levels for 2024 at fiscal 2022 levels represents a $120 billion reduction opposed by most Senate Republicans and Democrats. Senate Republicans are already unhappy about the potential impact on defense spending, making the path to an agreement more challenging.
If a spending accord is not reached, a 1 percent across-the-board cut would affect defense and nondefense priorities, with dire national security implications. Senators from both parties warn about the consequences.
House Republicans claim they are adhering to the debt deal and attempt to alleviate concerns about a shutdown. Democrats strongly disagree, accusing Speaker McCarthy of reneging on the agreement.
“This is a big problem,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a Senate appropriator. “This is obviously a bad start in the House because the ink was barely dry … before Speaker McCarthy ran away from the bargain he struck.”
“It seems pretty clear that Speaker McCarthy’s No. 1 priority is political survival and I think feels he has to cater to the far-right, MAGA crowd there,” Van Hollen continued. “It’s clearly going to make for some rocky moments over the next couple of [months].”
Senate Democrats are vowing to oppose any proposal falling below the agreed-upon spending levels. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray pledges to bring appropriations bills to the agreed-upon levels.
In summary, Senate Republicans are preparing for a possible government shutdown due to the House GOP’s decision to re-write funding bills at lower levels.
Reaching an agreement is challenging given the limited time frame and disagreements between the chambers.