The “only way” Colorado Congressman Ken Buck will cast a vote to avoid a government shutdown: Cut federal discretionary spending to 2019 levels.

Buck, who was one of 71 House members who voted in April against a bill to avoid a U.S. government default, is continuing to lead the charge of congressional hardliners against U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s attempts to cut a deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.


On right-wing KNUS radio last month, Buck said he’d vote for a federal budget bill, which would avoid a government shutdown, only if it cuts spending to 2019 levels, well below the budget framework set by McCarthy and Biden in April as part of a deal to raise the U.S. debt limit.

Buck denounced McCarthy’s idea of establishing a bipartisan commission to look at federal government spending. The commission’s work could possibly fold into a deal to allow Congress to pass a budget next month and keep the government operating. McCarthy compared it to the Base Realignment and Closure, BRAC, commission.

“It’s a way for a speaker to ignore the mounting problems and say, ‘We’ll deal with this in the next Congress when we have a solution from this commission,'” said Buck on KNUS Aug.21. (Listen at 16 minutes here.)

Buck said he knows what the problem is, and that’s too much spending.

“The idea of a commission isn’t unnecessary,” Buck said on KNUS. “We have a commission, and it’s called Congress. We have a budget committee, an appropriations committee, and we have other committees that deal with spending. So, let’s do it ourselves. and let’s do it this year, and not wait.” 

“After 2019, we had COVID. And President Trump had to pump money into the economy to keep the economy going and to keep the world economy going. I get that,” said Buck on air. “But now, you don’t keep spending as if we continue to have a pandemic, we continue to have a crisis. So, we need to go back to 2019 levels.”

Buck said the fact that federal employees are working remotely proves that federal spending can be cut.

“Do you know that in some departments – not commissions, not agencies, but departments of government – more than 80% of employees are still working at home? They’re working at home – not with accountability, not with a supervisor watching them every day and monitoring what they get done — but they’re working at home because it’s a lot easier than coming into work. That’s unacceptable! 

“If these agencies don’t need people coming into work, they don’t need to have as many employees. We have to find ways to reduce the federal government. And so, the idea that we can’t go to 2019 is just wrong. We can get there. We will get there.

“Certainly, it’s the only way they’re going to get my vote on appropriations bills.”

Buck’s position is even more conservative than the House Freedom Caucus’ stance — and is opposed by Republicans in the U.S. Senate. The Freedom Caucus has called for defense and nondefense spending, also known as discretionary spending, to be reduced to 2022 levels. That’s $1.471 trillion. Biden and McCarthy’s debt-limit agreement set spending at $1.59 trillion. Buck’s threshold of the 2019 level of discretionary spending is 1.336 trillion.

This week, the Hill quoted David Cleary, a former senior Senate GOP aide, as saying Senate Republicans “are going to want to avoid a shutdown.” 

“Shutdowns do not accrue to the benefit of Republicans,” Cleary told The Hill.

Congress and the president’s deadline for passing a bill to avoid a government shutdown is Sept. 30.

In the backdrop is McCarthy’s concession to hard-right House Republicans — made when he was elected speaker in January — that a single GOP House Member can call a snap vote to boot McCarthy as speaker. Such a vote was not called for during April’s debate on extending the U.S. debt ceiling, even though more Democrats than Republicans voted for the legislation that ultimately cleared the GOP-controlled House.