WASHINGTON — When Congress returns next week after August recess, funding the government will be on the top of the to-do list, with current appropriations set to expire Sept. 30. There is a growing consensus that lawmakers will need to give themselves an extension. But some of the most conservative voices in the U.S. House say their demands need to be met first.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, hosted a roundtable Tuesday with law enforcement officials and police unions from Central and South Texas in a show of solidarity even as he threatened to withhold appropriations to the Department of Homeland Security.
The congressman decried some reports that he was trying to “defund Homeland Security” and explained he wanted to pressure the DHS secretary to change his approach to the border.
“I don't feel any obligation to give another dollar to Alejandro Mayorkas, who is actually undermining the safety and well-being of the people I represent. So we should force Joe Biden to the table. That's the power of the purse,” Roy told Spectrum News. “People want to say ‘oh, you're trying to defund the Department of Homeland Security.’ No, I'm trying to say that they should be held accountable, and then I shouldn't give them money to not do their job.”
The House Freedom Caucus — of which Roy is a member — said it will not support extending the existing budget unless it includes the House-passed border security bill, and makes reforms to the Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Pentagon.
Roy acknowledged that lawmakers will be facing tough questions in September.
“The vast majority of my Republican colleagues feel like it's a smart thing to do to vote for the status quo in a continuing resolution of last year's funding levels to keep funding this federal government with the rampant inflation,” Roy said. “The American people don't want us to continue that. They want change. So Republican leadership knows that it's time to change.”
Some political experts say the extraordinary 15 rounds it took in January to select Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker underscored how in a slim majority it only takes a few voices to bring Congress to a screeching halt.
“Continuing resolutions, because we don't pass budgets anymore, and debt ceilings, which may be annual or not, are always going to come up,” said Brian Smith, political science professor at St. Edward’s University. “Both parties have realized they can use these events to try to get political concessions from the other party, or at the very least threaten a government shutdown.”
Smith says budget negotiations could be difficult because if Democrats give into certain Republican demands, it could look like they are agreeing with Republican's accusations that certain federal agencies are becoming too political.
But he said both sides have to weigh the optics of a shutdown.
“People can't go to work. Communities that rely on government services are hurt. So there's definite consequences of a government shutdown, and America hates when the government seems dysfunctional.” Smith said. “We know it's the way our system is set up, but a government shutdown is almost the ultimate sign of dysfunction. And we tend to blame one party over another. So both parties look and say it's in our best interest to keep the government going.”
Spectrum News asked Roy to clarify if he wants to avoid a government shutdown.
“I want to do our job. If we shut down the government, I'm not going to cry tears, but I'm also not going to seek it, I want to actually try to fund a government to do its job. That's the whole goal,” he said.
The White House has largely deferred to Congress when it comes to questions about this issue. Officials say the Office of Management and Budget continues to engage with lawmakers.
At a recent briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “There should be no reason for a government shutdown.”