Members of the restive House Freedom Caucus are mulling whether to oppose noncontroversial stopgap funding bill Friday. They are concerned that five days of extra deliberation time might yield a final year-end spending bill that lacks a refugee bill that passed the House last month.
“Why would you vote for a [continuing resolution] if you’re going to go out and continue to move in the wrong direction? Because we don’t know what direction you’re moving in at all,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said in an interview Thursday.
Even if the entire Freedom Caucus to votes against the stopgap spending bill, it would be unlikely to change the outcome. The Senate passed the five-day extension Thursday without a roll call vote, and there is little chance the measure will be blocked by the House Friday.
Current federal spending authority expires Friday, and negotiations over a year-long spending bill are still ongoing. Without fanfare, most lawmakers have accepted the need for another extension to keep government open through Dec. 16. But with negotiations entirely at the leadership level, it’s hard for rank-and-file members to stay up to date on fast-moving horse trading.
“I think a lot of it depends on whether or not the language for the omnibus is going to include the Syrian refugees,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.). “If it does, then I’ll vote for the [continuing resolution]. If I don’t know, I’m going to err on the side of caution and vote against it.”
The House Freedom Caucus wants a version of a House-passed refugee bill to be included in the final spending package. That legislation, H.R. 4038, would require key federal agencies to reevaluate the program for admitting refugees from Iraq and Syria. The 289-137 vote for it was solidly bipartisan, but House Democratic leaders opposed the measure and do not want it on the omnibus bill. That makes Freedom Caucus members angry.
“We had 47 [House] Democrats vote for the bill, and we’re not going to put it in the omnibus? Are you kidding me?” queried the group’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
The White House has issued a veto threat against the House refugee bill. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said earlier this week that Democrats would be able to sustain a veto on the refugee issue despite the previous vote tally.
The Freedom Caucus’s hesitation to even vote for a brief stopgap bill highlights the deep skepticism with which they approach the year-end negotiations in general. Being left in the dark is a frustrating position for the lawmakers who chafed under what they say was the top-down rule of former Speaker John Boehner. They don’t blame the new Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for the year’s time crunch, but that doesn’t mean they won’t complain about the lack of information.
“Boehner left us in a bad position,” said Huelskamp.
Ryan doesn’t dispute that assessment. “This is something I’ve more or less inherited from the last regime,” he said during a press conference Thursday.
Appropriators, for their part, are wondering if they need more than five days of additional spending authority to complete their work. “Even the five-day extension is going to be really close,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters Thursday. The squeeze comes in part because of the three-day review period that Ryan has promised House members.
Asked why House leaders weren’t moving on a longer extension, Rogers responded: “We need to keep ourselves under pressure.”
“We’d like to know some of the detail,” said Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), another member of the Freedom Caucus. “I’m one of those who believe we’d be better off doing six weeks [of negotiating]. Almost nothing good happens just before a holiday.”
Schweikert said he, for one, had planned to vote for the stopgap extension if he was going to be in Washington, D.C. Instead, he is in Arizona Friday to file adoption papers. He and his wife have been trying to adopt for a while, and their adoption of a daughter will be final this month.