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Texas Republicans divided on funding bill that would prevent a government shutdown

 U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, speaks to reporters as he arrives for a House Republican caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 12 in Washington, D.C.
 Julia Nikhinson
The Texas Tribune
U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, speaks to reporters as he arrives for a House Republican caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 12 in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — Thirteen Texas Republicans voted against their party’s bill Tuesday to keep the government funded through the year, though the bill was able to garner support from Democrats and pass in the U.S. House.

The measure, known as a continuing resolution, would keep the government funded at current spending levels until early next year as Congress works on appropriations legislation to finance the government for the whole fiscal year. House Speaker Mike Johnson presented the legislation over the weekend.

U.S. Reps. John Carter, Michael Cloud, Pat Fallon, Tony Gonzales, Lance Gooden, Wesley Hunt, Morgan Luttrell, Nathaniel Moran, Chip Roy, Keith Self, Beth Van Duyne, Randy Weber and Roger Williams voted against the bill — just over half the state’s GOP delegation.

The bill passed 336-95, with 93 Republicans and two Democrats voting against it. All Texas Democrats supported the bill.

Several deeply conservative members felt Republican leadership did not use the shutdown deadline to eke out stronger policy priorities.

“The continuing resolution put forth in the House today did not contain any border security measures, amongst other concerns. For that reason, I could not support it,” Luttrell said in a statement. “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road – we need to address Washington’s spending problem, lower the national debt, and prioritize border security funding now.”

The bill must now pass the Senate. Federal funding is set to expire Friday. Failure to fund the government by then will lead to a government shutdown.

The 32-page continuing resolution is a temporary band-aid that doesn’t change how government programs are funded. It would maintain current spending criteria for most programs until the beginning of 2024. Federal programs would be divided into two groups, one whose funding expires on Jan. 19 and another that expires Feb. 2.

The move to divide the continuing resolution into two deadlines is highly unusual. Normally, continuing resolutions extend all appropriations for a few weeks or months together to buy Congress enough time to pass year-long appropriations packages.

Johnson pitched staggering funding for different priorities to avoid having everything shutdown at once if appropriations legislation doesn’t get passed in time. Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican who is both in the House Freedom Caucus and Appropriations Committee, propped the idea.

It was initially a polarizing proposal. Many Republicans and Democrats thought the idea would simply lead to a series of showdowns over government funding each time a deadline approached.

“By adopting the Freedom Caucus’s extreme ‘laddered CR’ approach, Speaker Johnson is setting up a system that will double the number of shutdown showdowns.” House Appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, said in a statement.

But Democrats eventually came around to Johnson’s proposal. Democratic leadership said in a statement Tuesday they would support “any continuing resolution” so long as it “be set at the fiscal year 2023 spending level, be devoid of harmful cuts and free of extreme right-wing policy riders.”

The Freedom Caucus, meanwhile, soured on the plan after it became clear it would be presented without a host of right wing priorities. The far-right group demanded the bill be tied to measures reducing future federal spending and major changes to border policy under a House bill heavily influenced by Texas Republicans.

Roy, R-Austin, told reporters Monday that the continuing resolution would be hard to defend to constituents concerned about the high levels of government spending.

“It continues to perpetuate the very system my constituents sent me here to oppose. They don’t want me to continue spending money we don’t have,” Roy said.

The continuing resolution also extends the last farm bill until the end of the fiscal year in September. The farm bill covers a host of rural, nutrition and agricultural priorities including crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The farm bill usually gets renewed every five years, and Texas agriculture interests were eager to see reforms to help farmers weather recent difficult yields and shore up nutrition assistance programs.

Roy lamented that with an extension to the farm bill until just before an election, there’s little chance of substantive changes getting passed any time soon.

Keeping funding at current appropriations is not a permanent solution, and members across the board agree that standard, year-long government appropriations legislation must pass as priorities evolve. Federal agencies often complain that they can’t plan their programming for future initiatives until funding is secured.

At “a time when our country is facing so many urgent crises around the world, we can’t keep the Department of Defense and the Department of State in a CR until February of next year,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said in a statement. Cuellar is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

A continuing resolution also skips over community project funding, commonly known as earmarks. Texas members of both parties are requesting some of the biggest amounts for their districts to shore up border security, national trade and energy infrastructure.

Tuesday’s continuing resolution did not include supplemental funding for Ukrainian and Israeli defense or the border requested by the White House. Many Republicans in the House and Senate had hoped to attach stronger border policies as a condition to funding legislation, which would be a hard sell for Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats and pro-defense Republicans demanded funding for U.S. allies, though the far-right wanted to wane support for Ukraine.

With so many competing interests, Tuesday’s continuing resolution lobbed the priorities off and focused solely on pushing back the government shutdown deadline.

Still, Congress isn’t giving up on tackling the supplemental funding requests and likely will address them next week or after Thanksgiving. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has advocated substantial policy changes on the border as part of legislation financing defense in Ukraine and Israel.

“Even those of us who support the funding bills … we will not proceed to consider those funding bills until and unless real policy changes are included which will stop the flow of people coming across the border,” Cornyn said on a call with reporters last week.

During a Mondayinterview with CBS News Texas, Cornyn said he doubts the Senate will lead to a shutdown, saying the stakes were too high.

"We don't save any money. We actually spend more money and the same problems that cause you to shut down are staring you in the face when you reopen,” Cornyn said.

Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Matthew Choi | The Texas Tribune