Republican adds DHS to the list of agencies the GOP should defund

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Some political observers might remember the good ol’ days — circa 2020 — when Republicans whined hysterically about Democrats and the drive to “defund the police.” Such talk has been replaced with a surprisingly robust GOP campaign to defund, well, much of the federal government.

Prominent and powerful Republican officials have, for example, raised the specter of defunding the FBI. Other congressional Republicans have endorsed the idea of defunding the ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). More than a few GOP lawmakers have also talked about defunding the Justice Department. The party has already taken steps to partially defund the IRS. In the spring, one conservative congressman even suggested defunding the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It’s against this backdrop that the list continues to grow. The Hill reported:

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) threatened Sunday to defund the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until certain changes are made. Roy told host Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday” that Congress should withhold funding from the two agencies over what he characterized as the Biden administration’s “weaponization” of the Justice Department and for “leaving the border exposed.”

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, the Justice Department has not actually been “weaponized,” and we know from all the Republicans talking about drug seizures at the border that security at the border is actually quite tight.

Nevertheless, Roy appears quite serious about his push to defund the Department of Homeland Security, sending a new letter to his congressional colleagues yesterday, arguing, “Simply put, no member of Congress should agree to fund a federal agency at war with his state and people. … No border security, no funding.”

On the surface, this might not seem especially notable. The fact that one GOP congressman, who does not hold a leadership position, wants to trade funding for a cabinet agency for a series of far-right policy goals appears irrelevant in a body of 435 people.

But just below the surface, it’s not quite that simple. Current funding for the federal government expires at the end of September, and lawmakers are currently enjoying their lengthy summer break. When members return to Capitol Hill on Sept. 11 — the Monday after Labor Day — they’ll have limited time to negotiate, debate, write, and approve appropriations bills before the deadline.

If they fail, the government will shut down again.

It’s against this backdrop that Roy and other prominent Republican voices aren’t talking about how to get the funding bills through Congress; they’re talking about the agencies they’re eager to defund as part of a strange and conspiratorial partisan vision.

As a New York Times report summarized last week, “The political furor over the indictment this week of former President Donald J. Trump over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election is spilling into the escalating congressional spending fight as conservatives, following the former president’s lead, take aim at federal law enforcement agencies, raising yet another obstacle to avoiding a government shutdown.”

As for the possibility of a stopgap spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, that would keep the government’s lights on, Roy told Politico about such a measure, “I am violent no.”

With all of this in mind, I have no idea how House Speaker Kevin McCarthy intends to prevent a shutdown, and more importantly, I don’t think he has any idea either.

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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