House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s bosses, aka the most active and obnoxious core members of the Freedom Caucus, have issued their ultimatums for allowing the government to be funded after Oct.1. Note that it’s not an official Freedom Caucus missive, because they are too fractured at this point to come up with official positions. Still, this group of 21 members has the power to sabotage everything because McCarthy and the 180 or so House Republicans who aren’t Freedom Caucus extremists are letting them.
Their demands won’t just cut the funding agreement that McCarthy struck with President Joe Biden by more than $100 billion, which is meant to tank the economy ahead of Biden’s reelection campaign. The extremists also don’t want any of the 12 necessary funding bills to advance to the floor until all of them are approved by the Appropriations Committee; they also want McCarthy to promise that he will not allow an omnibus funding package, where some of the bills are packaged together and voted on as one.
These things are not possible. There are 23 working days between now and the Oct.1 funding deadline. That would mean two days for each individual funding bill to be passed in committee, then by the full House, then by the Senate. That cannot happen, even in a Congress that is functioning normally. And this Congress isn’t! They aren’t even dealing with funding bills this week because of the bind the extremists have put them in when it comes to those cuts. And yet, they’re still calling the shots in the House.
Here are just a few of the things that are at stake in the very near future if House Republicans continue to allow the nihilists in their party to stomp all over them:
Funding for fighting wildfires during the last couple of months of fire season is in jeopardy. As of Oct. 1, thousands of federal wildland firefighters are probably going to walk off the job unless pay hikes they received under the 2021 infrastructure law become permanent. Before that passed, they were being paid as little as $13.45 an hour. But the raise was temporary, expiring at the end of this fiscal year. Unfortunately, wildfire season doesn’t observe fiscal calendars.
Law enforcement groups—state and local, as well as federal—are calling out efforts by House Republicans to defund the police. The Republicans are talking about a nearly 29% cut in discretionary spending that could end up cutting money to cops. “State and local law enforcement are suffering. They're dying on the vine because of a lack of funding,”Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said. “And to add the federal government to that mix, I don't know what the expectation is. Will the law enforcement effort be conducted by posses?”
As we head into fall, we also head into flu and COVID season. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act expires Oct. 1, and with it authorization to spend any money on prevention and preparation. The holdup here is a refusal by Republicans to work with Democrats to address the problem of widespread prescription drug shortages in the reauthorization bill.
If the funding bills don’t pass, automatic deep cuts will kick in starting in January 2024, based on the agreement McCarthy made with Biden on the debt ceiling. If that happens, the $68.5 billion in advance appropriations for infrastructure projects included in the 2021 infrastructure law could dry up in May of next year. All those projects Republicans have been touting back home (even though plenty of them voted against the projects in the first place) could be halted. That means drinking water and sewer system upgrades, bridge repairs, and rail repairs all potentially grinding to a halt.
Rank-and-file Republicans have decided to appease the extremists and hurt Biden by hastening the destruction of the planet. They are trying to rescind billions from last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, the most substantive legislation ever passed to address climate change. That includes stripping $11.1 billion from greenhouse gas reduction; $3.25 billion from a clean energy program; and $500 million from programs to help their rural constituents with a new energy program.
These are just a few of the things Republicans are jeopardizing, all infinitely more important to the nation than whether, for example, a handful of billionaires have to pay higher taxes. Protecting millionaires and billionaires remains high on the Republican agenda: They’re also trying to rescind $10.2 billion in IRS funding that is earmarked specifically for tax enforcement.
That’s what regular Republicans want to do, not just the extremists in the Freedom Caucus who are spurring them on. They’ve already forced McCarthy and leadership to renege on the debt ceiling funding deal. Now they’re pushing for more, because they know it works. By not repudiating and shutting down the Freedom Caucus, the rest of the GOP is implicitly joining them and endangering everything, including their own careers.