GOP braces for Republican vs. Republican spending fight in House

House Republicans are bracing for fights over spending as GOP leadership aims to bring the first two of 12 appropriations bills to the floor this week, despite vocal criticism from the party’s right flank over not cutting enough spending.

Democrats are not expected to give the GOP any help with passing the funding bills, leaving Republicans to pass them with just a slim majority — creating the very real possibility that the GOP will be short on votes.

How the GOP deals with the first two bills ahead of a long August recess will set the tone for expected spending showdowns ahead of a Sept. 30 government funding deadline, and potentially bigger spending showdowns with the Senate this fall.

Hard-line conservatives have long pressed Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to further slash spending in the House bills, aiming to take the most extreme position ahead of expected funding negotiations with the Senate this fall.

A group of 21 House Republicans, made up of mostly members of the House Freedom Caucus and their allies, wrote in a letter to the Speaker earlier this month that they plan to vote against spending bills they think contain insufficient overall cuts.

The two measures scheduled for House consideration this week are the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and military construction bill, along with the agriculture, rural development and Food and Drug Administration bill. The first actually boosts funding for the VA, in an effort to combat Democratic talking points that claimed Republicans would slash benefits for veterans.

A main disagreement between the right flank and GOP, referenced in the letter earlier this month, is over “reallocated rescissions to increase discretionary spending above that top-line,” decrying what some have called a “budgetary gimmick” to include clawbacks of previously approved spending in getting to fiscal 2022 levels. 

The House Freedom Caucus is set to hold a press conference with the president of advocacy group FreedomWorks on Tuesday morning about the appropriations bills. 

“Democrats intentionally funded a bloated federal bureaucracy, and if we don’t reset discretionary spending now, Republicans are effectively accepting and enshrining absurd COVID levels,” FreedomWorks said in a post urging the public to demand lower spending levels.

Some conservatives have expressed confidence that the Appropriations Committee-approved bills will see changes before final passage — and it is a possibility through either the House Rules Committee or amendments.

Those in the right flank are also prioritizing policy changes through the power of the purse.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) summarized the position of hard-line conservatives in a tweet Monday: “To consider funding federal government: 1) Return Federal Bureaucracy to Pre-COVID, 2) End Border Invasion & fed attack on Texas, 3) End FBI Weaponization, 4) End Racist DEI Govt Policies, 5) Make Europe Handle Ukraine, 6) End War on Reliable Energy.”

The 10 bills passed out of the House Appropriations Committee so far did so along partisan lines, with Democrats angry that House Republicans moved to write the 12 appropriations bills with an overall top-line target that was lower than the spending caps that McCarthy negotiated with President Biden in the debt limit increase bill in June.

The White House on Monday said that Biden would veto either bill if it came to his desk, taking issue not only with the additional spending cuts and recissions, but with culture war provisions concerning abortion, diversity and inclusion initiatives and gender-affirming care.

Pressure from hard-line conservatives poses challenges for Republican appropriators and moderates. The challenge, they note, is making sure that final funding bills can eventually pass the House and get signed into law. 

“You’re not gonna get everything you want. But they are getting numbers-wise and policy-wise many of the things that are good for them,” Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), a subcommittee chairman on the House Appropriations Committee and chairman of the more moderate Republican Governance Group caucus, recently told The Hill.

“It’s important to pass appropriations bills that dictate the policies and procedures and how the money is going to be spent and where it’s going to be spent,” Joyce said, adding that it’s “certainly an understanding we haven’t reached yet.”