Political News

House Republicans are fuming they can't get things done

Posted July 20

House Republicans are fuming. They are watching their effort to make good on a vow to repeal and replace Obamacare flounder in the Senate, and the typical behind the scenes fiscal fights over legislation to fund the government and get tax reform done are breaking out into the open.

A divided and frustrated House GOP conference is worried about going home for an extended summer recess without a major legislative accomplishment to show for six months of Republican control of the White House and Congress. They were hoping to tackle a major government funding bill or a budget, but for now it doesn't look like either item will even get a vote this month.

"My gosh, we have the levers of government now -- we have them all! And we still can't do our jobs and this is getting old," an irate Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, told CNN off the House floor on Wednesday.

Womack and other GOP members on the House appropriations committee were trying to get agreement on a massive "omnibus" spending bill that wrapped all 12 measures into one package that essentially laid out the Republican priorities for reshaping the federal government's budget. But they are incensed that GOP leaders pulled back from the effort and are instead moving a smaller, security-focused funding spending legislation.

House Republicans across the ideological spectrum are also angry at GOP senators after they struggled and ultimately passed an Obamacare repeal and replace bill, and now aren't likely to get any credit because their GOP colleagues in the Senate ignored it. Now the upper chamber is can't figure out whether it can even bring up a health care bill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, in a radio interview, said Wednesday on the stalled Senate effort, "we're pretty frustrated."

"I'd like to say it can't get any worse," Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, who heads the Republican Study Committee, a group of fiscal conservatives told CNN, before his voice trailed off. He said there was "widespread frustration" and many members "upset at the process" at a weekly lunch with his committee in the Capitol basement.

On spending issues there have been long simmering tensions between those members on the committee with conservatives in the GOP conference, who demand billions in spending cuts, but regularly refuse to back any type of large scale bill. Ryan and other top leaders agreed, at the behest of a group of members, to move toward a massive twelve bill package. But they warned members they would pull the plug if they couldn't find the votes.

Again, the internal splits forced them to move to Plan B. Late Tuesday night they announced they were moving ahead on a "minibus" spending bill focused on money for the military, the border wall the president wants to build, and veterans programs.

"I think leadership is conceding way too early on this" Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, another member of the spending panel, told CNN.

Womack, who is usually a strong ally of Ryan and his top lieutenants accused them of "hijacking" the process from those who were working on a proposal because they were "afraid" of members on the right flank.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, said his group hasn't taken an official position on the budget or the spending bill yet. He defended conservatives deciding they can't support the fiscal items, saying "what we actually have to have is negotiation, not just conversations."

He pointed out that he and others urged leaders to postpone the August recess to work on a variety of items.

Multiple House GOP leadership aides say they continue to work toward a budget vote, and aren't ruling out it coming up next week, the final work week in Washington before the August recess. As for the decision to move toward a smaller spending bill they point out that getting buy in from a majority of House Republicans was always an uphill battle.

Talking about the challenge for leadership, Womack sounded fed up, saying, "I realize that it's difficult but to basically upend the appropriations process because other people are not good team players to me is wrongheaded, and I'm frustrated by it, and I don't know when it's going to change."

Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, a member of the Freedom Caucus, told leaders he was undecided on the spending measure.

He told CNN he was concerned "after this last Senate goof up on health care, it's very important we show the base and the Republicans and the rest of the country what's in our own Republican creed and what's in the party platform, and we stick to it."

Meadows said the problem on the spending bill wasn't the concept of one GOP bill, "it's the ambiguity of it, you're saying 'OK will you vote for something without knowing what's in it.' I'd prefer to read a bill before we do that."

Several House Republicans worried that punting the spending fight into the fall would again force members into a bad spot of scrambling to pass a bill to avoid a government shutdown, and potentially passing a stopgap bill, which rank and file Republicans complain is a bad outcome.

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