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Republicans Lean Into Defunding the (Federal) Police
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Republicans Lean Into Defunding the (Federal) Police

Plus: Kevin McCarthy and his detractors reach a deal to resume House votes.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene fist-bumps Rep. Tim Burchett during a hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee on February 8, 2023. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s no surprise that congressional Republicans are mostly standing behind former President Donald Trump after his federal indictment last week. But some are going so far as to push to defund the Federal Bureau of Investigation or abolish the Department of Justice altogether.

Such extreme measures stand no chance of passing, but they could make a chaotic government funding season even more of a headache for GOP leaders.

“We need to bring them down before the committee, and if not, at some point we need to start talking about cutting their funding,” Rep. Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican, said of the Justice Department on Newsmax. “I know I keep talking about this. I’m beating a dead horse, but that’s really what needs to happen because this group is out of control. They’re rogue.”

Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene said Monday she is writing legislation to defund Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office and its investigation into Trump.

“This is a weaponized government attempt to take down the top political enemy and leading presidential candidate of the United States, Donald J. Trump,” Greene claimed on the House floor, urging her colleagues to support her bill.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan broadly endorsed the idea of cutting funds to the Justice Department and the FBI earlier this year. 

Fringe as the ideas may be, the lawmakers pushing them need only a few determined allies to cause chaos on the House floor over the matter. Republicans have a slim House majority, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy can only afford to lose support from a handful of members to still be able to advance his agenda and hold onto the gavel. 

On that note …

The House is Back in Business

Firebrand Republicans who derailed House business last week agreed Monday night to allow votes to continue this week—a victory for GOP leaders, although one that may not last as long as they’d prefer.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, told reporters McCarthy has agreed to renegotiate his “power-sharing agreement” with conservative members who initially withheld their support for his speakership in January. McCarthy, for his part, said the “only thing we agreed to is that we’ll sit down and talk more of the process.” Members are expected to vote on the procedural measure conservatives tanked last week to allow consideration of a gas stoves bill, among other legislation, as soon as this afternoon.

A group of 11 conservatives blocked votes on those Republican messaging bills in a show of force, taking issue with McCarthy’s deal with President Joe Biden earlier this month to suspend the debt ceiling until January 2025. Gaetz said he wants a revised agreement with McCarthy to make sure “what happened on this debt ceiling bill never happens again.” He slammed GOP leaders for partnering with Democrats to pass the legislation: “We want him to choose us as his coalition partner, not the Democrats. We can’t live in a world in which the Democrats are the coalition partner on the substantive.”

If McCarthy doesn’t meet the group’s expectations with a new agreement to incorporate their views, Gaetz added, “perhaps we’ll be back here next week.”

The group is particularly focused on the upcoming government funding process and is unhappy with the spending levels in McCarthy’s debt deal, which would largely keep non-defense discretionary spending the same as this year. They want to see Congress cut more than $130 billion to those programs—a goal that is essentially impossible to attain with Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House.

But GOP leaders are now set to write spending bills closer to the right flank’s demands. House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger announced Monday night after McCarthy met with his detractors that her panel will advance funding bills that align with the fiscal year 2022 topline level and claw back more than $100 billion in government programs. She noted McCarthy’s debt ceiling deal set caps for spending, but appropriators can still write bills beneath those caps. (She had previously pushed back on this approach.)

The move sets up yet another clash with Democrats, and it makes a September 30 government shutdown deadline more serious. Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, also said it will probably lead to the House “getting jammed by the Senate,” which will write legislation to meet the caps in the debt deal rather than smaller spending bills.

Democratic senators have made clear they will insist on the full amount for their priorities, while leading Republican senators want to see defense spending boosted beyond the slight increase laid out in the debt deal.

Last week’s episode of House wrangling highlighted how tenuous McCarthy’s grip on a functioning majority is. The upcoming painful sprint to fund the government is sure to test that coalition further.

On the Floor

The House will consider a measure disapproving of a gun safety regulation this week, one of the hardline GOP group’s demands. The chamber is also set to vote on two messaging bills related to gas stoves, and another giving Congress more of a say in executive rulemaking. A full list of bills the House will consider this week—if McCarthy’s truce with the insurgents holds—is available here.

The Senate is considering executive nominations. You can keep up with floor activity through the week here.

Key Hearings

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is testifying before the House Financial Services Committee this morning on the state of the international financial system. Information and video here.
  • Intelligence officials are pushing for reauthorization of foreign intelligence surveillance powers during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning. Information and video here.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra is testifying before the House Education and Workforce Committee this morning on the agency’s priorities. Information and video here.
  • Members of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s select panel on the coronavirus pandemic are hearing from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky this morning about the agency’s response to the pandemic. Information and video here.
  • A Senate panel is set to consider artificial intelligence and related human rights concerns during a Tuesday afternoon hearing. Information and livestream here
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will examine the safety and wellbeing of unaccompanied children who are coming into the United States during a hearing Wednesday morning. Information and livestream here.
  • Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday morning to make the case that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has been derelict in his duties. Some GOP members want to impeach him for the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border. Information and livestream here.
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee will examine America’s efforts to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative during a hearing Wednesday afternoon. Information and livestream here.

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.