Conservatives rail against funding package: ‘An abomination’

House conservatives are already hammering away at the $1.2 trillion spending package congressional leaders unveiled overnight, airing their grievances as the chamber races to vote on the legislation ahead of Friday’s partial shutdown deadline.

In a slew of social media posts and interviews Thursday, hard-liners blasted the six-bill package’s hefty price tag, criticized the dead-of-night release by congressional leaders, slammed the inclusion of various funding priorities — including dollars for the FBI headquarters — and criticized the exclusion of some of their conservative policy riders, especially those related to the border.

Some on the right flank are now aiming their fire directly at Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and his leadership team, blaming him for cutting a deal with Democrats on the spending bill and slamming top lawmakers for being “afraid of a shutdown.”

“It’s total lack of backbone, total lack of leadership, and a total failure by Republican leadership. There’s no other way to describe it,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast Thursday morning. “This bill is an abomination.”

The conservative House Freedom Caucus, which includes roughly three-dozen Republicans, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that no members of the GOP conference should vote for the package.

“A massive spending bill drafted in secrecy and dropped on us in the middle of the night is being rushed to the House floor for a vote with less than 36 hours to review,” the group added.

Reps. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.)
Reps. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.)

Reps. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) listen to Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) address reporters outside the House Chamber on Wednesday, March 13, 2024 to discuss the recent vote on the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. (Greg Nash)

Congressional leaders rolled out the sprawling spending package around 3 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, officially beginning the sprint to Friday’s midnight partial government shutdown deadline. Top lawmakers are eyeing a Friday morning vote on the legislation, a source familiar told The Hill.

The minibus, which funds roughly three-quarters of the federal government, includes funding for the departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and State, in addition to financial services, general government, the legislative branch and foreign operations.

The package would fund the rest of the government through fiscal 2024, capping off the spending battle that has plagued Washington for months and, last year, led to the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Johnson completed negotiations with the White House for the minibus over the weekend after a last-minute hang-up over DHS funding emerged.

Both sides are claiming victories in the legislation: Democrats are highlighting investments in child care and domestic programs, while GOP leaders have cited an increase in the number of detention beds for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and cuts to diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Johnson defended the package Thursday morning, touting various GOP wins in the legislation while arguing the final product reflects the realities of legislating in a divided Washington — with a razor-thin House majority — where compromise is needed to get anything done.

“Because of divided government it’s not a perfect piece of legislation, it’s not the one we would draft and pass if the Republicans had control of the House, the Senate and the White House, and I think you’ll see that next year. But right now, we’re managing it, getting it through and I think we’ll avoid a long shutdown for the government,” Johnson said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”

“We got some of the things we wanted, we didn’t get everything we wanted, but we’ll continue to move forward,” he added.

Hard-liners, however, are not buying that analysis.

“I don’t even have words for any Republican that votes for this bill,” Roy told Bannon. “I promise you, I will not be going out and supporting any Republican who votes for this bill, for any position ever again. It’s absolutely unsupportable by anybody who is a self-proclaimed conservative.”

“A vote for this bill is a vote against America. A vote for this bill is a vote for the mass parole and release of criminals that are killing Americans,” he later added. “Any Republican who votes for this bill owns the murders, the rapes and the assaults by the people that are being released into our country. There is no defense of it, period.”

A number of conservatives lashed out at roughly $200 million in the bill that will go toward the new FBI headquarters in Maryland, as part of their crusade against the “weaponized” law enforcement community.

“The swamp’s new spending package released while you were sleeping includes $200 MILLION for a new FBI HQ. We can’t fix weaponized government if we’re funding it,” Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) wrote on X.

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The Freedom Caucus account on X pointed out a number of earmarks that direct dollars to facilities across the country that support the LGBTQ community; Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.) slammed the massive $1.2 trillion price tag; Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) took aim at a provision that provides $3 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative; and Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) denounced funding for nongovernmental organizations related to immigration.

Hard-liners also pointed out the conservative — and controversial — policy riders that were left out of the bill, including provisions that would decrease the salaries of controversial Cabinet officials to $1, prohibit mass parole and the release of immigrants lacking permanent legal status on the CBP One app, and ending the Pentagon’s policy that reimburses travel costs for service members who travel for an abortion service.

But one of the largest complaints conservatives had was about the process used by leadership to roll out and consider the spending measure. Republicans hounded top lawmakers for unveiling the legislative text in the middle of the night, and they are sounding the alarm about having fewer than 72 hours to review the 1,012-page package.

Hard-liners have demanded leadership provide them with at least 72 hours to review legislation before voting on the House floor — known as the “72-hour rule” — a request Johnson is poised to decline as leadership aims for a Friday morning vote.

“You’d never be expected to sign a 1,000 page document to buy a new car in a day. Why should Congress be expected to sign off on +1,000 pages resulting in $1.2 trillion in spending in a day?” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) wrote on X.

Johnson said Thursday the 72-hour rule is “a principle we all defend,” but he underscored the short timeline lawmakers have to avert a partial government shutdown.

“We want members to be able to understand legislation, have a time to review it before they vote on it, what a concept. Everybody is reading this quickly,” he said, adding “I think we have to get this done by the weekend because I think the stakes are too high.”

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a former chair of the Freedom Caucus, also pointed out the bill will be brought up under suspension of the rules, a fast-track process that eliminates the need to first pass a rule — which conservatives would have likely tanked — and removes the ability to vote on amendments. Bills considered under suspension of the rules require two-thirds support to pass.

“Congress is given ONE day to review 1012 pages of text to spend over $1 trillion of your hard-earned tax dollars. And we won’t be given the chance to offer amendments to fix any issues we find,” Perry wrote on X.

Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) paid homage to Thursday’s tipoff of the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, arguing that the real “March Madness” was taking place in the Capitol.

“The real March Madness happening right now is the Swamp dropping a giant $1 trillion+, 1K page+ funding package in the dead of night and forcing a vote in less  than 72 hours,” he wrote on X.

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