Politics

Freedom Caucus Gets on Board CR

Promises to bust budget caps for defense programs sealed deal

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., stops to speak with reporters about the continuing resolution on Thursday. He wants a different stopgap funding measure from GOP leadership that his group can support. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After a day of public disagreements regarding a stopgap funding bill, House GOP leaders, the conservative Freedom Caucus and President Donald Trump have reached a breakthrough.

“The majority of the Freedom Caucus has taken a vote to support the CR effort this evening,” the group tweeted Thursday.

Part of the reason for that support, according to Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, is that they secured a commitment to vote soon on a proposal that would lift statutory budget caps on defense programs only, the North Carolina Republican said. 

The defense bill the House will be voting on in the next 10 legislative days would include language to raise the defense cap to the NDAA authorized levels, roughly $80 billion, Meadows said.

Although the commitments for votes on the defense anger immigration bills do not extend beyond the House, effectively changing nothing, Meadows said there are “subplots that I’m not articulating right now that we did get.”

“We negotiated the best deal that we felt that we could get under the current circumstances,” he said.

Just before the 6 p.m., about an hour before GOP leaders had estimated the House would vote on a four-week continuing resolution, Meadows emerged from a meeting with GOP leaders in Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s office and said he was headed to sell his caucus on the proposal.

Ryan “put forth a few things for our caucus to consider that would actually be beneficial to the military and our focus on the military needs going forward,” Meadows said. “At this point I’m not at liberty to discuss what those are until I’ve talked to my caucus but I can tell you we’ve made real good progress. Hopefully the speaker will have something to announce here in the next 30, 40 minutes.”

The proposal has to do with “military readiness and the fact that we want to make sure that we keep our focus on our fighting men and women and giving them the tools necessary to get their job done,” Meadows said. “And the speaker and the president have been very clear about that today.”

The Freedom Caucus chairman expressed optimism about the breakthrough, saying, ” Hopefully we’ll be ale to find a path to 218 votes in the House.”

Notably, Meadows first tried to sell his caucus’s expected flip as supporting Trump.

“I will be recommending to our caucus based on what I just heard that we support the president in this particular initiative.” Trump tried clarifying the muddy situation he created 12 hours earlier by tweeting he wants the House to pass a Republican leadership-crafted stopgap spending bill.

“House of Representatives needs to pass Government Funding Bill tonight. So important for our country - our Military needs it!” Trump tweeted ahead of a planned House vote on the measure.

Earlier Thursday, Trump appeared to undermined the bill only to have his White House staff issue a clean-up statement expressing his support.

Before the meeting in the speaker’s office — which besides Meadows and Ryan included House Majority Leader Leader Kevin McCarthy, Chief Deputy Whip Patrick T. McHenry and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the former Freedom Caucus chairman — Meadows spoke with Trump on the phone.

“We talked about our military and the fact that our military cannot be held hostage any longer by a broken Congress that continues to have 60-vote cloture votes in the Senate and hold our military men and women hostage,” he said of the conversation. “It’s not acceptable. No one should accept that.”

Meadows alluded to future tactical plays: “There are a couple of things that are going to be used in the coming days that hopefully will address our military.”

Later in the conversation with reporters Meadows acknowledged that the plan Ryan presented and Trump’s initiative are “one in the same.”

Asked if the proposal involved attachments to the CR or promises of future votes, Meadows said “promises of votes.”

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.