Biden Hammers ‘MAGAnomics’ Amid GOP Infighting Over Government Funding
Hageman, Lummis and Barrasso push Wyoming policy priorities in Pentagon budget bills
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Sep 15, 2023
President Joe Biden on Thursday delivered a "major economic address" at a community college in Maryland, seeking to draw a contrast between his economic vision and that of Republicans in Congress. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
By Jacob Gardenswartz
Special to the Wyoming Truth
LARGO, Md. — House Republicans may have formally launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden this week, but it was the 80-year old commander-in-chief who was on the offensive Thursday, hammering the GOP for what he alleged were extreme policies threatening the American middle class.
“This is not your father’s Republican party,” Biden said in remarks to students and supporters at Prince George’s Community College, just outside Washington, D.C. “They’re back at it again, breaking their commitment, threatening more cuts and threatening to shut down the government.”
The president’s speech came amid a week of spectacular infighting among Congressional Republicans, even by the unique standards of the 118th Congress — where it took a record 15 votes to elect House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). With the government set to run out of money at the end of this month, House GOP leaders pulled a planned vote on Defense Department appropriations Wednesday, acknowledging they lacked the support to proceed with debate amid disagreements within the conference about funding levels.
“I always have a plan. It doesn’t mean it happens,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol Thursday. “This week — it didn’t turn out exactly as I planned.”
Intra-party bickering came to a head on Tuesday as lawmakers returned to Washington with a long list of funding deadlines and little time to meet them. Further complicating matters has been the increasingly-aggressive rhetoric from members of the House Freedom Caucus, an association of far-right lawmakers pushing for budget cuts steeper than the levels McCarthy agreed to with Biden during the debt ceiling standoff earlier this year.
Appearing on MSNBC Wednesday evening, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) attacked his party leader as a “sad, pathetic man who lies to hold onto power” — again threatening to force a vote to oust him.
McCarthy, for his part, vehemently defended himself in a closed door meeting with House Republicans Thursday, reportedly telling lawmakers that, “If you think you scare me because you want to file a motion to vacate, move the f***ing motion.”
Caught in the middle is Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), who aligns ideologically with the Freedom Caucus but remains close with GOP leadership. She previously opposed the debt ceiling agreement, arguing it “fails to significantly reduce our national debt and does not do enough to rein in the administrative state.”
And Hageman has remained tight-lipped about her thoughts on the funding debate, refusing to say what levels of funding she’d accept and whether she’d back a short-term stopgap measure to give lawmakers more time to hash out a compromise. Her spokesman did not respond to multiple inquiries about her stance.
Military budget a vehicle for Wyoming policy priorities
Hageman and Wyoming Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis have signaled some of their policy priorities through amendments they’ve proposed to military budget bills — typically among the most bipartisan funding measures and thus the easiest to pass.
In the House, Hageman proposed two amendments: one would eliminate pay for any Department of Defense employee who works remotely “on a regular and recurring base [sic]” — part of Republicans’ effort to force government workers back to the office. That proposal was ruled “in order,” meaning lawmakers will have the chance to vote on it whenever the bill makes it to the floor.
A second would eliminate Pentagon funds used to “transition” away from fossil fuels, unless the Secretary of Defense can ensure that the renewable energy sources are “as affordable, reliable, and accessible” as those being replaced.
“Given the immense importance, size, and purpose of our military bases, we need to ensure that their highly technical systems are able to work whenever crisis strikes,” Hageman wrote in an email to supporters. That amendment was not ruled in order, so it is unlikely to come up for a vote.
On the Senate side, Lummis and Barrasso have put forward similar proposals to a different Pentagon funding bill, this time covering military construction projects.
Lummis’ amendments, meanwhile, focus predominantly on climate — halting the implementation of a Biden policy requiring state transportation departments to develop CO2 emission reduction goals and prohibiting funding for lab-grown meat products.
Both Wyoming Senators also signed onto a proposal from Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) that would ban the enforcement of any COVID-19 mask mandate virus in the military, though military leaders have shown no intentions of reinstating a mandate any time soon.
While Senate Republicans have largely avoided the drama embroiling their House colleagues, they haven’t been immune to infighting entirely. A bipartisan group of senators had hoped to nail down an agreement to advance votes on budget bills Thursday — including some of the proposed amendments — only to be derailed by opposition from Sen. Rob Johnson (R-Wis.). In response, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the top Republican on the appropriations panel, said Johnson’s move was “setting us up for either an omnibus bill or a government shutdown.”
Like the House, the Senate ended its work week with stalled progress and an unclear path forward to averting a shutdown.
White House highlights GOP dysfunction to contrast spending priorities
At the White House, officials have sought to highlight the stakes of the funding debate even as they’ve pointed to Republicans’ bickering to draw a distinction between the two parties’ messages on spending.
The administration has called out how GOP proposals would cut funding for low-income schools, law enforcement agencies, health care research and workforce development programs, releasing state-by-state figures pointing to their potential impact nationwide.
In Wyoming, the Republican budget cuts would impact over 33,000 students and 400 teachers and staff, eliminate preschool slots for 110 children and shutter workforce development opportunities for 1,000 individuals, according to White House estimates.
“Their extremism would endanger critical services for the American people,” a senior White House official told the Wyoming Truth on a background briefing call with reporters earlier this week. “The consequences of these bills would be devastating.”
Pressed about how a shutdown might impact those same communities, officials rejected the notion of cuts or shutdown as a false choice. “There’s no reason that a shutdown even has to be off the table,” the official said.