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House GOP conservatives send McCarthy an ultimatum on funding the government

As worries about a fall shutdown grow, the 21 Republicans, led by Reps. Scott Perry and Chip Roy, are threatening to vote down government funding bills unless demands are met.
Rep.-elect Cory Mills, R-Fla., talks to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., during the third day of elections for Speaker of the House on Jan. 5, 2023.
Kevin McCarthy, then the House Republican leader center, during the third day of elections for speaker on Jan. 5.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — A group of 21 House conservatives sent Speaker Kevin McCarthy a letter Monday threatening to vote against government funding legislation unless it meets a series of demands.

The ultimatum from the 21 Republicans, part of an escalating battle over a must-pass bill, highlights the challenges McCarthy, R-Calif., will face in getting government funding legislation through the GOP-led House, particularly a measure that can pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and get President Joe Biden’s signature to become law.

Congress has until Sept. 30 to agree on a bill to fund the government in order to avoid a shutdown.

The Republicans, led by Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Chip Roy of Texas, insisted that Congress spend less than the levels agreed to in the bipartisan debt limit law to win their votes.

“We plan to vote against any appropriations bills designed to achieve the approximately $1.586 trillion top-line spending level — roughly equal to the spending caps agreed to with President Biden in the debt ceiling deal and representing a mere 1% reduction from Democrats’ egregious post-COVID spending level,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was provided by a GOP aide.

They demanded that funding levels “match” the fiscal 2022 amount of $1.471 trillion without using gimmicks. They called on McCarthy to hold off on bringing all 12 government spending bills to the floor until they have passed through committee. They demanded that he “publicly reject” the possibility of an omnibus bill — a large and often last-minute package that combines all the spending measures — as well as supplemental legislation to boost U.S. aid funding for Ukraine.

The conservatives also suggested their demands could be met by getting Biden on board with a Republican border enforcement bill known as H.R. 2, though no Democrats in the House backed the legislation.

"Absent adhering to the $1.471 trillion spending level — and/or achieving significant policy victories such as forcing President Biden to sign H.R. 2 and take the steps necessary to secure the border — we see an impossible path to reach 218 Republican votes on appropriations or other measures," the Republicans wrote.

McCarthy's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter doesn’t appear to be an official product of the House Freedom Caucus, and it wasn’t printed on a caucus letterhead. But it includes numerous members of the ultraconservative group — including Perry, the chairman.

The full letter and signatories can be read below: