Feb 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Top House Democrats warn Mike Johnson on Freedom Caucus fight

Rep. Deborah Ross, wearing a blue coat and speaking at a podium with microphones in front of the Capitol.

Rep. Deborah Ross. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images.

A group of top House Democrats is warning House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and other congressional leaders not to cave to the right-wing Freedom Caucus' demands on government spending.

Why it matters: Democratic votes in the House will be necessary to pass any spending bill with an actual chance of being signed into law.

What they're saying: More than a dozen Democrats, in a letter to congressional leaders, wrote that spending bills should be advanced "without harmful poison pill policy riders" that the GOP hardliners have called for.

  • "Clean funding bills – free of contentious poison pill riders that members of both parties oppose – represent the best path forward," they continued.
  • The letter also pushed back on the Freedom Caucus' demands for deep spending cuts, calling to stick to 2023 levels as agreed to in January.

Between the lines: Led by Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), the letter is signed by several high ranking House Democrats.

  • The signers include House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rules Committee Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
  • Several centrist lawmkers also signed on, such as Reps. David Scott (D-Ga.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.).

The backdrop: On Wednesday, the Freedom Caucus sent Johnson a letter pressing for a raft of policy riders to be included in the spending bills.

  • Proposals include zeroing out Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas' salary, blocking federal funding for gender affirming care, defunding gun control enforcement, prohibiting diversity, equity and inclusion programs and blocking student loan forgiveness.
  • A failure to include those provisions will "reduce the probability that the appropriations bills will be supported by even a majority of Republicans," 28 of the caucus' members wrote.

What's next: An announcement on a spending deal could come as soon as Sunday, according to a source familiar with the matter.

  • Some House Republicans told Axios they expect another stopgap spending measure to temporarily avert a shutdown — but it could still be tied in with a broader spending deal.
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