A group of about a dozen House Republican freshmen gathered outside the Capitol on an overcast Wednesday morning to deliver a letter to Senate Democratic leaders urging them to pass a measure to fund the federal government, the latest volley in the ongoing budget battle on Capitol Hill.
At the rally, led by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), the freshmen assigned blame for the budget impasse to Senate Democrats – even as new members of the Republican freshman class have had their own clashes with House GOP leaders over the scope of acceptable cuts.
“The fight is between Republicans who want to cut Washington spending, and Democrats who want to defend it. ... We will not settle for a split-the-baby strategy,” freshman Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) said at the event.
Crawford argued that “if you want to know what’s in [Democrats’] heart and in their intent, go back and look at why we’re here.”
“If they wanted to run this government and avoid this, they could’ve done it” in the previous Congress, he said. “They controlled every bit of government. Every lever of government, they controlled it. What did they do? They kicked the can down the road so that we would have to deal with it. Well, now we’re dealing with it.”
The dozen or so freshmen were flanked by two signs: one reading “39” (the number of days since the House passed its funding measure) and “0” (the number of funding measures the Senate has passed). After they held their news conference, they walked over to the Senate side of the Capitol, where they delivered a letter in which 30 Republican freshmen pledged to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to rally on the Senate steps every day until the upper chamber passes a funding measure.
Roby’s “split-the-baby” remarks captured the sentiment among many freshmen that any deal below the $61 billion that House Republicans have approved – along with a number of controversial “policy riders” – would be unacceptable.
It’s that opposition by conservative members that has prompted House Republican leaders to reach out to moderate Democrats in the hope of building a coalition that could pass a funding measure, as The Post’s Paul Kane reported this morning.
Even if leaders are able to reach an accord on the current budget deal, there were signs Wednesday that House Republicans will continue to face pressure from their freshman members, specifically on the policy riders that deal with such issues as eliminating funding for National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood.
“We’re one-half of one-third of the government,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), a freshman who attended Wednesday’s event. “We’ve got to use whatever leverage point we can find. And the [government funding measure] is one, the budget will be one, and I think the biggest one at this point will be the debt ceiling.”
Farenthold added that the riders represent issues that many House Republican freshmen ran on, including defunding the national health-care law.
“I have communicated to leadership that I feel like if we let the debt ceiling go without getting some of the policy things we’re after, a repeal of all or most of Obamacare and some of the Planned Parenthood stuff, they’re going to have a problem with me and some of the other freshmen,” Farenthold said.
— Staff writer David A. Fahrenthold contributed to this story.
Here is the full text of the letter:
We the undersigned call on you and the Senate to pass a long-term Continuing Resolution; a resolution that hears the calls of the American people and makes reasonable, responsible spending cuts.
Mr. Reid, your record on spending in the Senate is one of failure. You have failed to pass a budget, failed to restrain spending, and failed to put our country on sound fiscal footing.
We do not accept your failure as our own.
The American people did not send us here to fail. Make no mistake: any government shutdown is the result of your lack of leadership. America has a $14 trillion debt and you offered a mere $6 billion in cuts. The House heard the calls of the American people and offered $61 billion in cuts, but the Senate has not sent us a Continuing Resolution in return.
We have received nothing from the Senate except denials of the dire straits of our nation’s fiscal health.
The House of Representatives is accomplishing what we were elected to do. We’ve cut spending. We’ve terminated wasteful programs. We’ve funded the government.
Mr. Reid, we are letting you know that we will rally on the Senate steps every day until you pass a long-term Continuing Resolution. We call on all Americans to join our fight in restoring our country’s fiscal health.
The House of Representatives is doing our job, Mr. Reid. The Senate needs to start doing theirs.
Mr. Reid, it’s time to pass a bill.
Bound together and determined,
Rick Crawford (Ark.)
Richard Nugent (Fla.)
Billy Long (Mo.)
Frank Guinta (N.H.)
Jaime Herrera Buetler (Wash.)
Jeff Landry (La.)
Blake Farenthold (Texas)
Martha Roby (Ala.)
Tom Reed (N.Y.)
Steve Stivers (Ohio)
Bill Flores (Texas)
Todd Rokita (Ind.)
Marlin Stutzman (Ind.)
Chip Cravaack (Minn.)
Steve Womack (Ark.)
Diane Black (Tenn.)
David McKinley (W.Va.)
Jeff Denham (Calif.)
Quico Canseco (Texas)
David Schweikert (Ariz.)
Vicky Hartzler (Mo.)
Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.)
Mike Pompeo (Kan.)
Rick Berg (N.D.)
Tim Huelskamp (Kan.)
Tim Scott (S.C.)
Jim Renacci (Ohio)
Tim Griffin (Ark.)
Stephen Fincher (Tenn.)
Michael Grimm (N.Y.)