As Republicans in Congress scramble for the votes needed to pass a fourth temporary funding bill to avoid a government shutdown, House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows wants the House to look beyond the four-week measure.
“At what point are we going to have a plan on where we’re going to land or are we just going to hope Feb. 16 is better than Jan. 19 because it’s in a different month?” said Meadows, a western North Carolina Republican.
The latest government funding measure will expire on Friday. Without passage of another short-term bill, the federal government would shut down. Democrats have threatened to withhold their votes because of the stalemate over immigration – a potential obstacle in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed.
But since Republicans control the House, no Democratic votes are needed there – and Meadows acknowledged that the GOP is likely to take the blame if a measure to keep the government open fails in the House.
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“Anything that gets stopped in the Senate, there is more of an argument that it’s the Democrats stopping it than if we stop it in the House where it’s more of an argument that the Republicans did it,” he said.
Still, Meadows said he and members of the conservative Freedom Caucus were willing to vote no – against the wishes of House leadership and the White House, which came out in support of the funding bill Wednesday. The measure includes funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but not a fix for young immigrants brought to the country illegally.
“What’s the plan? When are we going to deal with immigration? When are we going to deal with spending?” Meadows said he told White House officials. “At what point do you quit kicking the can down the road and passing just another (continuing resolution) in hopes that things get better in a few weeks?”
Meadows said he would like to see tighter caps on non-defense spending, funding for military pay raises and maintenance and greater clarity on how the House will address immigration before committing to vote for the bill. Such progress, he said, must be “more than rhetoric. Rhetoric is easy; actions are hard.”
He would not disclose how many of the Freedom Caucus’ three dozen members planned to vote no. If the entire Freedom Caucus voted against the bill, it would not have enough Republican-only votes to pass.
House leadership worked Wednesday to secure votes needed to pass the bill. Meadows and House Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican from Denver, were among members meeting in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office at 6 p.m.
Meadows said that leadership and the White House “seems to be very confident that they have the votes,” but Meadows said they did not have enough support as of Wednesday evening.
Rep. Mark Walker, a Greensboro Republican and chairman of the conservative Republican Study Caucus, told reporters Tuesday that the bill was “a crap sandwich with moldy bread.”
But he did not plan to oppose it.
“We’re not happy about it. Most of us aren’t,” Walker said Wednesday. “It’s this proverbial hamster wheel. What’s going to change next month?”
Walker said the six-year reauthorization of the children’s insurance program was an important aspect for many members.
Walker said he thought Republicans were close to having enough votes to pass the funding measure, saying he didn’t see the “urgency” that often accompanies troubled bills.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed skepticism that the Freedom Caucus would vote against the bill.
“They want a shutdown?” he said. “I don’t think that they want a shutdown.”