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DeGette decries ‘poison pills’ in House spending bills as government shutdown looms

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Lindsey Toomer

(Colorado Newsline) As Congress prepares to go back into session September 12, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver is worried about the prospects of a government shutdown.

The U.S. House has passed only one of its annual appropriations bills. With far-right Republicans inserting what DeGette, a Democrat, referred to as “poison pills” in typically bipartisan appropriations legislation, such as the annual defense authorization bill, she is concerned about finishing everything Congress needs to do before the federal government’s new fiscal year starts October 1. 

DeGette said the House still has 11 more appropriations bills to pass, and she said several that have already gone through committee are “chockablock full of these poison pill amendments, all kinds of messaging amendments that are really irrelevant to funding our country.” She also said Republican leadership has made extensive cuts that congressional Democrats are also not happy about. 

“They had a 22% across the board cut in the agriculture bill, and so all of the Republicans in the Midwest in these ag districts said, ‘I’m not going to vote for that bill because it has huge cuts for our people,’ so they were unable to bring it to the floor,” DeGette said. “So they not only have problems with these far-right message amendments, but they also have severe problems with their own caucus.” 

DeGette’s remarks came during a roundtable with Colorado journalists Thursday at her Denver office, taking the group through her most recent work in Washington D.C. 

Because Republicans have only a five-vote majority in the House, DeGette said it will be very easy for a group of the “far-right MAGA Republicans” to “hold the entire agenda hostage.” She said members of the far-right Freedom Caucus, which includes Lauren Boebert and Ken Buck of Colorado, have said they won’t vote for appropriations bills unless certain demands they’re making of Speaker Kevin McCarthy are met. 

DeGette said she hopes McCarthy will pursue a short-term continuing resolution, which temporarily maintains current spending levels, to prevent the government from shutting down. This would look similar to how the federal government was able to get the debt ceiling package through earlier this year.

“I didn’t like everything in there, but I voted for it because it was a compromise, and when you have divided government, you have to have compromise,” DeGette said. “So we could do a continuing resolution based on that agreement last spring — it would be very easy to do.”

Before Congress went into recess, the Senate had passed all 12 bipartisan spending bills out of committee. If the Congress misses an end-of-the-year deadline to pass its funding, the debt-limit deal calls for a drastic 1% across-the-board spending cut to defense and domestic discretionary programs. 

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