House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) led a Republican trip to Eagle Pass, Texas to push for hardline immigration policies.

(Photo: C-SPAN)

Progressives Say 'Absolutely No Reason' Dems Should Help GOP Eviscerate Key Programs

"Democrats should walk away from any deal that makes further cuts to the spending levels agreed upon in the bipartisan compromise," said one advocate.

As a U.S. government shutdown yet again looms, a progressive coalition on Thursday warned Democrats against allowing federal spending cuts beyond what was agreed to in the debt ceiling deal that President Joe Biden negotiated with Republicans last year.

"Congressional Republicans aren't hiding the ball. They want to eviscerate funding for programs working families rely on and they are willing to shut down the government to do it," said Groundwork Collaborative executive director Lindsay Owens, a member of the ProsperUS coalition, in a statement.

"There is absolutely no reason for Democrats to participate in their efforts to starve programs that provide food, housing, and childcare for families," Owens argued. "Democrats should walk away from any deal that makes further cuts to the spending levels agreed upon in the bipartisan compromise."

To avoid an economically catastrophic U.S. default last spring, Biden and then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) struck a deal on the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act, which included two years of spending caps for nondefense discretionary spending.

Since then, government shutdowns were narrowly avoided with temporary measures in September and November. Between those moves, House Republicans also ousted McCarthy—who then resigned from Congress at the end of last year—and eventually replaced him with Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), whose rise to power was widely seen as a signal of the far-right's hold on the party.

Neither chamber of Congress will be in session until next week, but Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have told reporters that budget talks are underway to potentially reach an agreement before the two government shutdown deadlines—which are midnight on January 19 and February 2, with various agencies set to be affected by one date or the other.

A shutdown could be prevented with an omnibus bill or a continuing resolution. Although Johnson claimed in November that "I'm done with short-term CRs," Forbesnoted Tuesday that "full budgets appear unlikely given the tight timeline and limited progress so far. The House and Senate have both passed some appropriations bills, but they are a long way from being reconciled. Specifically, the House has passed seven appropriation bills and the Senate three."

While leading a Republican trip to the border city of Eagle Pass, Texas on Wednesday to demand hardline immigration policies, Johnson said that "we have been working in earnest and in good faith with the Senate and the White House virtually every day through the holidays trying to come to an agreement. Negotiations are still ongoing."

"And let me tell you what our top two priorities are right now," he said. "In summary, we want to get the border closed and secured first, and we want to make sure that we reduce nondefense discretionary spending."

Johnson supports the GOP's Secure the Border Act (H.R. 2)—which Republicans have tied to the budget battle and Biden's supplemental funding request for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan—but the speaker "stopped short of embracing his right flank's demand to shut down the government without action," Politicopointed out Wednesday.

However, far-right Republicans, including House Freedom Caucus members, have a clear message. Fox News' Bill Melugin reported from Eagle Pass that GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), and Matt Rosendale (Mont.) said: "Shut the border down, or we'll shut the government down. We control the money."

The House Freedom Caucus is also a barrier to getting an agreement more broadly. According toNBC News:

A source familiar with the talks, who wasn't authorized to share details, said that they're "moving along" and that it "appears we'll reach agreement soon" on a dollar amount that includes less spending in fiscal year 2024 than was in the budget deal, "without any cuts to defense" spending.

Republicans are targeting cuts to a side pot of $69 billion in domestic nonmilitary funding that was part of the budget deal, alongside a spending "cap" of $1.59 trillion.

"One obstacle to a deal is the House Freedom Caucus, a group of ultraconservative lawmakers who want to wipe away the entire side agreement," the outlet explained. "A Freedom Caucus spokesperson said they still oppose any deal that would add to the $1.59 trillion level and pointed to the group's statement Friday blasting the use of 'disingenuous gimmicks' to secure separate funding for programs."

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