Neguse warns of shutdown
House Rules Committee holds a session to set the stage for this week’s voting
BY ERNEST LUNING firstname.lastname@example.org
The Gazette, Colorado Springs
As Congress prepared to return to Washington on Tuesday, a prominent member of Colorado’s House delegation warned that the federal government could be barreling toward a shutdown, even as the chamber’s leading Republican worked furiously to corral factions of his party. “I think until cooler heads prevail within the House Republican conference and they decide to actually govern, unfortunately, it looks like they may have manufactured a situation in which we are going to be faced with a shutdown in five or six days, with destructive consequences for Colorado and the country,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse of Lafayette, a member of the powerful House Rules Committee, told Colorado Politics on Monday. “I’m hopeful that when we go back tomorrow, we’ll be able to avoid it.” It could require masterful orchestration by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican in charge of bringing together moderates and hard-liners within his party to approve a spending plan ahead of a Saturday deadline to fund the government. The House Rules Committee held a rare Saturday session to set the stage for this week’s voting, as the White House began telling federal agencies to prepare for a possible shutdown over the weekend, The Associated Press reported. President Joe Biden on Saturday chided the “small group of extreme Republicans” who were threatening a shutdown in which “everyone in America could be forced to pay the price.” Military servicemen and women would continue to work without getting paid, Biden said at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner, but funding would be cut off for “everything from food safety to cancer research to Head Start programs for children.” Added Biden: “Funding the government is one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress. It’s time for Republicans to start doing the job America elected them to do.” With its military installations and a large concentration of federal laboratories and workers, Colorado could be particularly hard-hit by a shutdown, Neguse noted. Mccarthy was reportedly pushing ahead with a plan championed by a small number of lawmakers on his right flank to vote on a handful of the dozen spending bills needed to fund the government, with plans to take up a stopgap measure after that, intended to fund the government for about a month while continuing work on other appropriations measures. Mccarthy’s message to conservative holdouts over the weekend was blunt, the AP reported: “You’ve got to stop that.” Neguse said Mccarthy’s willingness to “capitulate to this far right wing of his caucus” could prevent Congress from reaching even an interim deal to keep the government open with a continuing resolution — a move several Republican House members, including U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt, have called unacceptable. “I didn’t come to Washington D.C. just to watch things fall apart,” Boebert tweeted on Friday after appearing on Newsmax to discuss her decision to stay in Washington “to avoid a government shutdown.” The next day, however, Boebert told podcast host Steve Bannon that a shutdown could be ahead. “It is very well possible that we will see a one-week, 10day, 12-day, maybe a 15-day — hopefully not — shutdown of the federal government to get this right,” Boebert said. “The outcome will be determined by what steps Speaker Mccarthy ultimately takes to avert this crisis,” Neguse said. “House Republicans are really on an island right now. The president, Senate Democrats and Republicans, and House Democrats have all indicated their willingness to abide by the bipartisan agreement that was negotiated by all of those same parties four months ago.” Neguse said recalcitrant House Republicans have “reneged on that agreement” surrounding legislation passed in June to lift the federal debt ceiling until 2025 in exchange for federal spending caps. A handful of House Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida are insisting on the lower spending levels Mccarthy promised in January during his race to lead the chamber, though sticking to that agreement could lead to cuts more moderate Republicans don’t want, The AP reported. Still, Mccarthy was considering moving ahead on the first four bills — appropriating funding for the Defense Department, Homeland Security, Agriculture and State and Foreign Operations — in legislative action that could chew up much of the week, though it’s unclear whether he has the votes. Once approved, those bills would have to head into negotiations with the Senate, which has its own legislation and is considered unlikely to approve drastic cuts demanded by some of Mccarthy’s fellow Republicans. A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn told Colorado Politics that the Colorado Springs Republican is awaiting updated bill language to see what the details are before deciding how he’ll vote on possible legislation. Neguse said “the simplest solution” would be to approve a continuing resolution to keep the government funded, while negotiations continued on department-level funding. Such legislation, he said, would likely include supplemental relief funding to address natural disasters in Florida and Hawaii, as well as money requested by Biden to keep wildland firefighter pay at current levels — a measure Neguse has sponsored — as well as other spending. “That would be the simplest solution, and it’s a solution that’s, again, supported by Senate Democrats, most Senate Republicans, House Democrats and the president,” Neguse said. “The Republicans, unfortunately, in the House are being held hostage by this far right wing, and until the speaker decides that it is in the best interest of the country to simply work with Democrats to craft a compromise and to keep government up and running.” Neguse, who holds the No. 5 position in House Democratic leadership, added that the chamber’s Democrats have been “unmistakably clear that we are always ready and willing to work in good faith with others who seek to solve the problem.” If Mccarthy joins with Democrats, however, he will almost certainly face a vote led by Gaetz and others to depose him from the speaker’s post.