WASHINGTON — Republican House speaker nominee Jim Jordan has pitched his colleagues on an unorthodox plan to prevent a government shutdown on Nov. 17.
And his conference members have mixed feelings about it.
In recent meetings with House Republicans, Jordan, the right-wing firebrand from Ohio, has called for passing a stopgap bill to keep money flowing under existing law beyond April, according to a half-dozen lawmakers who heard his comments. The reason is that an across-the-board 1% cut, as tucked inside a recent debt-limit law, would then take effect, imposing reductions across agencies.
Jordan indicated to Republicans he believes the automatic cuts will give them leverage over Democrats on full-year funding bills as they work to pass individual appropriations bills. The reason, he believes, is that Democrats will want to switch off the automatic cuts as soon as possible and therefore accept more GOP demands.
“That is leverage,” said Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus. “And I think he’ll get that. And I’ve been against [continuing resolutions]! But we got 31 days. I mean, time’s running out. We got to look forward.”
But other Republicans say it’s a bad idea to pass another continuing resolution, or CR, which represents the sort of short-term funding on autopilot that conservatives — who want the chance to make more spending cuts — typically loathe.
“I don’t like that plan at all,” said Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., who argued that Congress must pass full funding bills individually.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said: “I prefer to not be governed by continuing resolution. I think we should put a demand on the Senate to pass our single-subject spending bills.”
The plan would need to get through the Democratic-controlled Senate, but Jordan’s belief is that Democrats and President Joe Biden would be unable to say no to a “clean” stopgap bill that continued funding set under current law.
One problem, however, is that because of a quirk in the automatic cuts, Defense Department spending would face a larger cut than nonmilitary funds. That could lose Jordan support from military hawks in his own party, sparking intraparty divisions and hurting the cause of pressuring Democrats to fold.
Rep. Tom Massie, R-Ky., the author of the 1% cut provision, championed Jordan’s plan.
“So Joe Biden has already signed into law the reductions down the road that was part of the Fiscal Responsibility Act,” Massie said. “If we are still on a CR in April, there’s 1% cut that gets implemented. And it applies for the whole year starting Oct. 1."
“So what Jordan said in there is — his plan would be to put a clean CR on the table. And we vote on that and take shutdown off the table,” he said. “It’d be a long-term clean CR that takes us past April. And get our 12 bills done. And then the Senate can work with us on the 12 bills. And I think they would be strongly incentivized to do that, staring at a cut instead of a shutdown.”
Jordan made his case for the plan in a recent interview, arguing that the House needs a “strong” message for the Senate and Biden.
“Pass that so that that 1% cut is hanging over everyone’s head. Nothing like that to incentivize people to actually focus on doing the 12 appropriation bills,” he said. “And the message becomes: You voted for it.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said she’d consider a stopgap bill if it came with policy conditions and wasn’t a “clean” measure.
“If we’re not going to fix the problems that put us in this place to begin with, then I don’t want to continue kicking the can down the road,” she said in an interview.
Despite the GOP skepticism about short-term bills, some say Jordan’s background as a hard-right stalwart gives him more credibility to sell it to right-wing skeptics.
“I don’t think there’s any question, when you look at the history of Jim Jordan and his very conservative positions, that’s going to give him the opportunity to have a broader breadth of conservative cred,” said Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., the chair of the Republican Study Committee, a faction of conservative lawmakers.
Hern, summing up Jordan’s message to Republicans, said: “He wants to hit the ground running and get as many [appropriations bills] done as possible between now and Nov. 17. And everyone that’s been around this place for any length of time knows we’re going to have to have a CR to continue that work.”