Sep 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

The hard-right Republicans pushing the U.S. toward a government shutdown

House Freedom Caucus members (L-R) Rep. Ralph Norman, Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Andy Ogles, Rep. Matt Rosendale and Rep. Keith Self outside the U.S. Capitol on July 25. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

As the U.S. careens toward its latest government shutdown, infighting in the Republican-led House has been on display.

Why it matters: A small group of House members refuses to back a short-term funding deal — in a blow to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's leadership that's leaving thousands of government employees to face delayed pay.

  • McCarthy can't lose more than four Republican votes if all members show up to vote, while looking to Democrats would imperil his speakership.
  • "Combined, these hard-right holdouts represent about 2 percent of the U.S. population," the Washington Post reported.

What's happening: Some House lawmakers have said they will not vote for any stopgap measure — known as a continuing resolution — to fund the government.

  • Others have not said that they are strictly opposed to the short-term measure but have also not approved any options put forth so far.
  • Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Thursday sent a letter demanding answers from McCarthy on his plan for passing appropriations bills before moving forward on any short-term spending stopgap.

Context: Many of the GOP holdouts this time around were also behind the historically prolonged vote to elect McCarthy as speaker earlier this year.

  • To claim the gavel, McCarthy reached an agreement with more than a dozen GOP detractors that allowed them to wield more power.
  • One of his strongest detractors, Matt Gaetz, is now wielding that power by threatening to introduce a motion to vacate — a mechanism to oust a speaker — if McCarthy backs a bipartisan stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown.

Here are the hardliners who've been most visible in the weeks-long fight to fund the government:

Matt Gaetz of Florida

Gaetz, one of McCarthy's most vocal opponents, has continued criticizing McCarthy's leadership and argued that a short-term spending bill would breach the agreement he made with conservatives to become speaker.

  • On Thursday, the two had a confrontation in which Gaetz accused McCarthy of paying influencers to attack him on social media.
  • "If the folks in my district want somebody who's just going to vote for continuing resolutions and omnibus bills, they've had other choices," Gaetz told Axios on Wednesday, referring to standard short-term and long-term spending bills that have become a decades-long feature of Congress. "But they chose to send me, and I'm here to fight."

First-term GOP House members

Newcomers to Congress have identified as "Never CR" voters.

  • Cory Mills (Fla.) said Wednesday that Congress should enact a "No Budget, No Recess" policy. His frustration with proposals was funding for Ukraine, but he also said he would not support the same measure if it excluded the funding, per the NYT.
  • "The only way we're actually going to break a system that's continued to be flawed is to take a principled stance to be able to really change that," Mills told Axios. And that's starting with the CRs, omnibus, minibus."
  • Wesley Hunt (Texas) told reporters on Thursday that he still did not support a continuing resolution. He has identified himself as a "never CR" voice, also citing duty to his constituents, the Washington Post reported.
  • Andy Ogles (Tenn.), an HFC member, told Axios: "[We need] 12 appropriations bills, we need a debt commission. There are some things that could be put in place that would make it a conversation worthwhile, but right now all of those are absent."
  • Eli Crane (Ariz.), an HFC member.

Other House Freedom Caucus members

The HFC members who've served more than one term and are part of the group opposing government funding, per the New York Times, include:

  • Matt Rosendale (Mont.)
  • Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.)
  • Andy Biggs (Ariz.)
  • Dan Bishop (N.C.)

Tim Burchett of Tennessee

Burchett reportedly hasn't voted for a CR since he took office in 2019, comparing them to drug addiction, per the NYT. He said it was a cycle that needed to be broken.

  • "At this point, I think it's just doing away with our duties," Burchett told Axios on Tuesday. "I just don't support a continuing resolution."

Context: At 34 days, the longest government shutdown was also the most recent, from late 2018 to early 2019, during former President Donald Trump's administration.

Go deeper: McCarthy and Gaetz spar in heated meeting ahead of government shutdown

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