Senate Republicans Demand McConnell Only Accept Short-Term Spending Bill

Senate Republicans Demand McConnell Only Accept Short-Term Spending Bill
(Left) Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in Washington on March 30, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images); (Right) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Washington on Sept. 6, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Joseph Lord

Senate Republicans have vowed to oppose any spending bill that would go on beyond the 117th Congress.

After a long effort to pass an omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2023, Democrats were forced to accept a short-term continuing resolution (CR) instead.

CRs, while they prevent the government from shutting down, make no changes to long-term federal spending. Rather, they simply continue to spend at levels set the prior fiscal year.

Earlier this year, Democrats passed a CR that will fund the government through Dec. 16, at which point the government will shut down if lawmakers have not passed a new spending bill.

One of the Democrats’ many agenda items during the lame-duck session is the passage of a more comprehensive omnibus spending bill. In contrast to a CR, an omnibus bill, if passed, would allow Democrats to set appropriations levels for next year even though they'll be in the House minority.

Because the 118th Congress will sit for the first time on Jan. 3, 2022, allowing a CR to run out before then could give a lame-duck Democrat majority a last-minute chance to fund its policies through all of fiscal year 2023.

This, a group of Republican senators told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a Nov. 30 letter, is unacceptable.

The letter was written by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and signed onto by three other Republicans—Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

In it, the coalition demanded that McConnell not allow Democrats to succeed in their efforts to set next year’s spending levels.

“On November 8, 2022, the American people made their voices heard at the ballot box,” the letter opened. “Using the Democratic process, millions of Americans sent a message—they want divided power in Washington to curb the worst excesses of both parties.”

The four Republicans said they “stand with the voters.”

They wrote, “We believe it would be both imprudent, and a reflection of poor leadership, for Republicans to ignore the will of the American people and rubber stamp an omnibus spending bill that funds ten more months of [President Joe Biden’s] agenda without any check on his reckless policies that have led to a 40-year high in inflation.”

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation has slowed from its peak of over nine percent in June, but it remains high. In October, the value of the dollar dropped by 7.7 percent, a situation that Republicans have blamed on Democrats’ “out of control spending” (pdf).

Since taking unilateral control of the government, Democrats have rushed through trillions in new spending: first with the passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which received no GOP support, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act.

The effect of this spending, the Republicans wrote, has been higher costs for American households. They cited a figure provided by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget which estimates that Democrats have authorized $4.8 trillion in new borrowing since Biden took office.

“Since taking office, President Biden has overseen a $4.8 trillion increase in the national deficit, costing the average American household an estimated $753 more a month,” the lawmakers wrote. “It should be up to the new Congress to set spending priorities for the remainder of this fiscal year.”

Concluding the letter the Republicans wrote: “Now is the time for Republicans to get serious about leading America towards a better future.”

They demanded that McConnell not make any deals that would fund the government well into the next fiscal year.

“We must not accept anything other than a short-term Continuing Resolution that funds the federal government until shortly after the 118th Congress is sworn in,” they wrote, demanding that “[no] additional spending, [and] no additional policy priorities should be included.”

Anything more urgent, they added, should be handled as an individual bill rather than as part of an omnibus spending bill.

‘A Lame Duck Spending Blowout’: Roy

This demand, the passage of a short-term “clean” CR with no changes to current spending, has been growing among Republicans.
In the House, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) circulated a letter making similar demands.

In the letter, Roy wrote: “Federal dollars are fueling rampant inflation and funding the Biden administration’s radical agenda. This includes empowering authoritarian bureaucrats at agencies like the IRS and FBI, implementing open-border policies that are threatening our communities, imposing COVID-19 mandates that shut down schools and are forcing our military servicemembers out of their jobs, and advancing self-destructive energy policies.

“As the September 30th federal funding deadline approaches, Republicans must do what is necessary to ensure that not one additional penny will go toward this administration’s radical, inflationary agenda,” he continued. “Any legislation that sets the stage for a ‘lame duck’ fight on government funding gives Democrats one final opportunity to pass that agenda.

“Therefore, we, the undersigned, pledge to the American people to reject any continuing resolution that expires prior to the first day of the 118th Congress, or any appropriations package put forward in the remaining months of this Democrat-led Congress.”

On Dec. 1, Roy re-upped these demands in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner. He described Democrats’ ongoing efforts to pass an omnibus bill as “a lame-duck spending blowout.”

“When is $5 trillion still not enough?” Roy quipped. “Answer: When you’re a progressive about to lose your grip on total power.”

Later, he wrote: “Taxpayers ... deserve better than another rushed backroom deal as lawmakers sprint home for Christmas. Democrats ran all of government for two years but focused on their special spending causes rather than pass individual bills to finance the government. Now with three weeks left in a lame duck, they want to jam the GOP again.”

Roy said that Republicans should not be cowed by Democrats threatening to shut down the government to pass a spending bill.

“The GOP campaigned on a return to regular fiscal order, and why not start now?” Roy wrote. “Democrats can threaten a government shutdown, but they’d own it as the party in control. If Republicans aren’t going to use their power to enforce some fiscal discipline, they might as well stay in the minority.”

What’s Next

Despite opposition to an omnibus bill among both House and Senate Republicans, Democrats could still get what they hope for.

In the House, a Democrat-crafted spending bill would need only a simple majority—a simple majority that Democrats have until Jan. 3. Thus, passing an omnibus bill through the lower chamber would be relatively painless for the party.

In the Senate, any spending bill’s fate will be contingent on how Republicans respond to it.

Unlike in the House, where simple majority rules, almost all bills that go to the Senate must first overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold before they can go to the floor for a simple majority vote. This means that Democrats will need the support of at least ten Republicans to end debate and send the bill to the floor for a vote.

For Republicans hoping to stave off a Democrat-made spending bill, a key player will be McConnell, who has the influence among Senate Republicans to make or break such a bill.

On Nov. 29, McConnell indicated that there is “widespread agreement” on the need for an omnibus, a sign that McConnell may be willing to support a Democrat spending bill when it comes to the upper chamber.

Another risk, according to Roy, is that “retiring GOP appropriators like Alabama Senator Richard Shelby see the omnibus as a last chance to pave his Birmingham streets in earmark gold.”

Shelby is one of several GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber, joined by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who will not be around during the next Congress.

It remains unclear whether the sentiments expressed by Roy, Cruz, Scott, Braun, and Lee are shared by enough Senate Republicans to kill a Democrat omnibus bill.

Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.
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