With a little over a week left to avert a government shutdown, House Republicans say they are getting close to reaching a budget deal.
Speaking with reporters after a conference meeting on Wednesday night, several lawmakers said they were optimistic about the progress being made.
Among them was Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), who told The Epoch Times that the meeting was “tremendously productive. I think members are being as honest and forthright and as vulnerable as they can be.”
And Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a member of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus, also appeared hopeful.
“This is a start,” Mr. Donalds said. “We have to do a lot of belt-tightening because the future of our country demands it.”
During the meeting, headway was reportedly made on fiscal year 2024 appropriations for the Department of Defense and a continuing resolution to extend government funding while budget negotiations continue.
Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to pass either all 12 appropriations bills or a continuing resolution. If they fail to do either, the federal government will cease to perform all nonessential operations on Oct. 1.
And while finding consensus between parties is never easy on Capitol Hill, intraparty divisions within the GOP have made the process even more challenging in recent weeks as hardliners have sought to leverage the situation to enact spending cuts.
“We have to save this country,” Mr. Donalds said. “Fitch Ratings downgraded our debt the other day. We thought we were running a $2 trillion deficit with $33 trillion in debt.
“We have to get serious with the people’s money. … We’ve got to get serious,” he added.
Republican RiftDuring the meeting, there was reportedly discussion over whether to cap 2024 discretionary spending at $1.526 trillion or $1.471 trillion, either of which would mark a decrease from the current level of $1.7 trillion.
Meanwhile, Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) reportedly agreed to support a motion to consider the Pentagon spending bill, which they’d voted against on Tuesday. And by the end of the meeting, Republicans were close to having the necessary votes to pass a continuing resolution.
That plan, however, has been opposed by members like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), another Freedom Caucus member, who said it was a “betrayal of Republicans” and would fund “Ukraine and Jack Smith’s election interference.”
Mr. Smith is the Justice Department special counsel prosecuting former President Donald Trump for alleged crimes relating to his handling of classified documents and his challenge of the results of the 2020 election.
Mr. Gaetz, a staunch supporter of President Trump, urged Republicans on Wednesday to “defund all aspects” of President Joe Biden’s “weaponized government.”
“This is also the last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots,” he added, referring to the four criminal cases that have been brought against him this year.
“[Republicans] failed on the debt limit, but they must not fail now. Use the power of the purse and defend the Country!”
Other dissenters to the proposed short-term funding deal include Reps. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) and Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.). House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can only afford to lose four Republican votes for a continuing resolution to pass without Democratic support.
Reversing the CurseAs the negotiations continue, members will have another budget plan to consider.
Advanced in a 20–14 vote, the proposed plan would lower interest payments on the debt by $3 trillion, reduce the deficit by $16.3 trillion, and create a $130 trillion budget surplus by fiscal year 2033. It would also grow the economy by 3 percent per year.
In a statement, Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) praised the budget proposal as a move toward “reversing the curse and restoring America’s fiscal sanity.”
“If we demonstrate the sense of urgency, persistence, and political courage, we will preserve America’s leadership in the world and secure the blessings of liberty for our children. If we don’t, we will be the first of our nation’s leaders to leave the next generation not with a better and brighter future, but with a worse and weaker country than we inherited,” Mr. Arrington said.
But committee Democrats, while acknowledging the need to reduce the deficit, criticized the fact that the proposal differed from the terms of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the debt limit deal struck by Mr. McCarthy and President Joe Biden in June.
“This is the height of political theater. A deal is a deal. Your word is your bond,” Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) said.
Others, like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), objected to cutting spending on programs benefiting the poor without hiking taxes on the rich.
“They entirely leave in place the Trump and Bush tax cuts to benefit them and their friends, which has cost over $10 trillion and are responsible for almost all of the increasing debt ratio,” Ms. Omar said. “Permanently extending the Trump tax giveaway would benefit households in the richest 1 percent.”
Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) questioned if the bill would even make it to the House floor, noting that Republicans have only managed to pass one appropriations bill so far.
“I urge Speaker McCarthy to work on bipartisan appropriation bills which can actually pass the House and a bipartisan continuing resolution which can actually pass the Senate,” he said.