With shutdown looming, conservative Republicans try pushing back the next spending deadline
Government funding is set to expire Friday, giving Republicans who control Congress just a few days to shore up support. President Trump and top congressional leaders agreed to meet Thursday afternoon to discuss details of a new year-end spending agreement — just hours before spending runs out.
Over the weekend, Republican leaders unveiled a bill to keep the government operating through Dec. 22, giving bipartisan negotiators more time to reach an agreement.
But in a sign of trouble, members of the House Freedom Caucus on Monday night briefly withheld support for a bill to formally launch negotiations with the Senate on a GOP tax restructuring plan — not over issues with the Senate legislation, but as a way to extract concessions from Republican leaders on the spending measure.
Freedom Caucus members ultimately helped Republicans approve the launch of formal tax negotiations, but leaders of the bloc said that House GOP leaders had agreed to keep talking about possibly setting the next deadline on Dec. 30.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who chairs the Freedom Caucus, said his group would rather see the next spending deadline fall after Christmas and asked GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 — a date that would require lawmakers to interrupt their planned holiday recess. Meadows said he had received “a commitment to talk further.”
“Ultimately, there are no good decisions that get made three days before Christmas, ever,” Meadows said.
Signs of growing conservative concerns surfaced during the vote on the tax bill about 7 p.m. as caucus members withheld their votes or were voting “no” against launching tax negotiations. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who was not in the U.S. Capitol during the vote, called Meadows during the vote and agreed to raise the possibility of moving back the spending deadline with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), according to aides. On the House floor, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was also spotted in an intense back-and-forth with several Freedom Caucus members.
Later, in a brief interview, McCarthy said he made no firm promises to change the date. “I said I have no problems with 22nd or 30th. We’ll let the conference decide which way to go.”
Asked if he personally thought Republicans would have more leverage Dec. 30 than Dec. 22, he said he did not.
Meadows also spoke twice Monday evening with Trump about his group’s idea. Ultimately, House GOP leaders said they would bring up the issue at the House Republican conference meeting Tuesday morning. And Freedom Caucus members switched their “no” votes to “yes.”
Conservative leaders described the move as a “tactical decision” meant to reduce the chances that Republicans would have to accept an immigration deal with Democrats or higher spending caps alongside a vote to cut taxes.
“Keep ’em separate,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.