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2 Republican Lawmakers Chide Party Members Over Government Funding Impasse

The lawmakers signaled they’d endorse a bipartisan parliamentary maneuver to end gridlock in the House over spending.

Rep. Mike Lawler speaks to the media following a news conference to announce Bipartisan Legislation Establishing a Special Envoy for the Abraham Accords at the U.S. Capitol on May 17, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

At least two Republican lawmakers in Congress are speaking out against their own party’s failure to produce a spending bill to continue funding the government beyond the end of this month, stating that they’re willing to work with Democrats instead to produce a compromise.

A federal shutdown will happen if lawmakers cannot craft a continuing resolution spending package to keep the government funded by September 30. If that happens, thousands of government workers could be furloughed and several basic government functions — including important national programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly known as WIC — will likely be disrupted.

The continuing resolution must pass both the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate before being signed into law by President Joe Biden. Complicating matters beyond the ordinary gridlock that exists within divided government is the intraparty disagreements between Republicans, with far-right lawmakers making extreme demands for massive spending cuts to social programs that others in the conference recognize would go nowhere in the Senate.

Two Republicans from New York, Reps. Marc Molinaro and Mike Lawler, both hailing from swing districts that Biden won in 2020, are criticizing members of their own party for unnecessary delays. If a plan isn’t agreed upon soon, both have stated they will support what is called a “discharge petition,” a parliamentary maneuver that allows lawmakers to draft a bill for full House consideration without a committee’s approval or Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s endorsement.

“If there is not going to be a [continuing resolution to fund the government] coming out of the House Republican caucus, then I will move forward with a discharge petition,” Lawler said to reporters Thursday.

“It is absolutely an option. Working to ensure the government remains functional and that Congress is making the legitimate choices as it relates to funding … is an important principle,” Molinaro said.

Noting that “any final bill is going to be bipartisan” anyway, Lawler chided hardliners in his party, saying they needed to be less stubborn and more willing to compromise.

“This is stupidity, the idea that we’re going to shut the government down when we don’t control the Senate, we don’t control the White House,” Lawler said, adding that the current situation, in his mind, is “a clown show.”

Lawler blamed far right lawmakers, including member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, for the party’s inability to move forward. “You keep running lunatics, you’re going to be in this position,” he said.

A discharge petition likely wouldn’t stop a government shutdown from happening by itself. In order for the discharge petition to be voted on, a bill has to have already been introduced, then stalled, in a committee for at least 30 days, and a majority of the House has to agree to it. However, it could shorten a lengthy shutdown, once one starts after the September 30 deadline, giving lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle the chance to prevent extremist Republicans from prolonging the budget impasse.

The process, however, for passing a discharge petition is itself a difficult one, and would require every Democratic lawmaker in the House and at least five Republican representatives to join together to support the discharge petition. If the language of the bill contains provisions that are unagreeable to Democrats — for example, reinstituting restrictive (and likely illegal) immigration standards — it’s possible that maneuver will also fail.

Republicans like Molinaro and Lawler are likely mindful of the fact that a government shutdown will hurt them politically, as well as the party overall, especially if it lasts a long time. A recently published Navigator Research poll on a potential government shutdown shows that Americans would blame both parties equally for a shutdown, if it happens.

However, blame toward Republicans in Congress increases by 7 points when respondents are informed that GOP hardliners aren’t agreeing to a compromise because they want to make significant cuts to popular social spending programs, including Social Security, nutrition assistance, K-12 education, and more.

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