WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter is not considered a flamethrower among House Republicans, and he has criticized hard-liners who over several months have made life difficult for Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
But Carter, who represents coastal and southeast Georgia, agrees with some of those McCarthy critics on one thing: A federal shutdown might be necessary to send a strong message about what many conservatives believe is too much government spending.
“Shutdown is not the worst thing that can happen,” the Pooler Republican said Thursday as lawmakers were headed home for the weekend. “The worst thing that can happen is if we continue with deficit spending, if we continue adding to our deficit. We can’t sustain that.”
Carter and most House Republicans are not advocating for shutting down the federal government. The potential ramifications are vast, and a prolonged shuttering would drag on the economy.
Federal employees would not receive paychecks, even though those deemed essential would still be expected to show up to work. People trying to reach agencies for assistance or services, such as to receive veterans benefits or to obtain a passport, could be turned away or face long delays.
Still, the fact that more than just fringe GOP House members are open to the possibility, knowing the economic and political implications, means they will be less willing to make compromises with Democrats and even Senate Republicans to ward it off.
Funding for the federal government runs out on Sept. 30, and appropriations legislation pending in the House and Senate will take weeks if not months to navigate through the process. Even then, the House is likely to pass bills that set spending levels much lower than the Senate and include anti-abortion, anti-LGBT and anti-diversity language plus other policies that the Democratic-led Senate and White House are unlikely to accept.
To buy more time, Congress in most years passes stopgap legislation to keep funding at current levels until a new agreement is reached. Shutdowns are rare, with the most recent starting in December 2019 and ending 34 days later.
The New York Times says there have been 21 since 1976, with half lasting three days or fewer.
But House conservatives have said legislation to fill the gap temporarily, known as a continuing resolution, won’t fly unless it mandates a reduction in federal spending and includes priorities such as defunding investigations of former President Donald Trump and restricting immigration at the southern border.
If appropriations bills or a stopgap package aren’t signed into law by the end of the month, the government will shut down.
U.S. Reps. Barry Loudermilk, of Cassville, and Rick Allen, of Augusta, are in the camp of House Republicans who say this should be avoided at all costs. Both also say they support the ideals proposed by hard-right lawmakers: less spending, impeaching Biden and pursuing the culture wars. But they don’t think closing federal agencies is the answer.
Loudermilk, who was tapped by McCarthy to lead a reinvestigation of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, said he doesn’t want to see that work slowed. He said that could happen if funding is allowed to lapse.
“When you go into shutdown, you have to consider the impact that it has on the country as a whole,” Loudermilk said. “From my perspective, leading this investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, it can really impede that investigation.”
McCarthy has told members of both parties that once they return Monday, they will be kept in Washington until a budget deal is worked out. If there is a shutdown, the speaker said, Congress will remain in session.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a close ally of McCarthy’s, has at times characterized a shutdown as counterproductive to the GOP agenda and its investigations of the Biden administration.
But Greene has also said her support for any temporary or long-term spending plan comes with conditions.
“I will not vote for any bill that funds a war in Ukraine,” she recently told reporters.
Greene said this is a firm stance, even if it means a shutdown. During a town hall meeting last month, she asked constituents in the audience whether they would support her in this. They cheered in response.
U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde is among the House Freedom Caucus members who have opposed McCarthy and expressed the most concerns about federal spending. He has said he will not support any legislation unless it bars money going to prosecutors investigating Trump and includes language addressing immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
He also backed a new position that bubbled up last week from conservatives who halted votes in both the House and the Senate by insisting all 12 appropriations bills be voted on separately and only after receiving approval in committee.
Ten of the 12 appropriations bills have received a House committee vote; two have not. Clyde said that step needs to be completed so that amendments he and others have proposed can be considered.
Clyde, who represents much of northeast Georgia, said he could see himself supporting stopgap funding, but only if language is added to address his concerns about immigration and other issues. Such provisions would make it nearly impossible for the Senate or Biden to sign off, creating another barrier to avoiding a shutdown.
Still, for the Athens Republican it’s the only way.