WASHINGTON — Far-right Republicans are delivering a clear message to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that they won’t soften their demands for spending cuts in government funding legislation one bit as a result of his impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, even as a shutdown looms at the end of the month.
“Zero. Zero. They’re totally unrelated,” Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., said.
“The impeachment inquiry is right,” he said. “But that has absolutely nothing to do with the spending battle. We can do both at the same time, so — absolutely not connected in any way.”
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said the impeachment inquiry is “well overdue” and “should’ve been done a long time ago.”
But he said the inquiry and government funding are “two separate issues; completely different.”
“It’s irrelevant to that,” Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., another one of McCarthy’s detractors, said when asked whether the impeachment inquiry would make him more likely to support the speaker in spending fights. “So why would I change unless I really don’t prioritize the spending problems and the debt?”
The demands from the hard-liners leave McCarthy in a bind, with a wafer-thin House Republican majority, time running out and no realistic chance of striking a full-year government funding deal by the Sept. 30 deadline to prevent a shutdown.
“With or without impeachment, we knew that government funding was running out on Sept. 30,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said. “There’s no excuse for not having had our individual single-subject spending bills considered by now.”
Broadly, the conservatives want spending cuts below levels Congress agreed to earlier this year, along with policy provisions that have no realistic chance of passing the Democratic-led Senate. These Republicans also say they won’t vote for a continuing resolution, or CR, to temporarily avert a shutdown. And they insist McCarthy mustn’t pass one with Democratic votes, or there could be consequences for his speakership.
The Senate, meanwhile, is pursuing a bipartisan path and voted 85 to 12 Tuesday to advance the first funding bill.
House conservatives rebel against short-term bill
McCarthy has called for a short-term bill so that the House GOP can continue passing its own funding bills to strengthen its negotiating hand with the Senate. But some Republicans are skeptical.
“I am not going to vote for a CR that continues the current spending levels and the current spending priorities,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus. He added that he might back a 24-hour bill “to finish something” — but not one that’s 30 days or longer.
Roy also made it clear that he wouldn’t accept McCarthy relying on Democratic votes for a short-term funding bill to buy time on appropriations. “That’s a no,” he said.
Asked Wednesday if forcing a short-term measure could threaten McCarthy’s speakership, he said: “I don’t think that would happen because it would be enormously stupid.”
Gaetz, an outspoken McCarthy antagonist, said that if the speaker passes a continuing resolution with the help of Democratic votes, he might consider calling a motion to overthrow him — any one member can force a vote.
“Yes,” he replied when asked if that scenario could trigger a motion to vacate. “It very much could.”
Former Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., one of the conservatives who initially opposed McCarthy’s speaker bid, expressed skepticism at the timing of the impeachment inquiry announcement, suggesting McCarthy did it now to distract conservatives from the funding fight.
“I think the timing is interesting on that,” Biggs said. “It probably might be seen by some as being a deflection.”
Asked if a motion to vacate should be a tool that remains on the table, he replied: “Yes, absolutely.”
Biggs’ Arizona and Freedom Caucus colleague, Rep. Paul Gosar, praised McCarthy for pressing forward with the impeachment inquiry. But he said he agreed with Gaetz that a CR was a nonstarter that could result in the speaker’s ouster.
“It might. I’ll tell you right now I want nothing to do with that CR. It is from the Pelosi years; she pre-funded a lot of this,” Gosar said in an interview, referring to current spending levels. “From my standpoint, how can you impugn a future Congress by loading it up with money?”
McCarthy responded Tuesday to Gaetz, accusing the Florida Republican of “working with” Democrats like Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., to depose him. The speaker alluded to the ethics inquiry involving sex trafficking laws that Gaetz has been embroiled in.
“And the one thing I make very clear: He can threaten all he wants. I will not interject the speaker into the independent Ethics Committee to influence it anyway at all,” McCarthy said.
Some Republicans say they have confidence in McCarthy to navigate the various challenges on impeachment and government funding — and keep his job.
“He has threaded the needle in the past,” said Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif. “I think if I was a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against him on this one.”