Less than 48 hours after Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert told a phone-in town hall that she was working tirelessly to prevent a government shutdown, she was one of 90 House Republicans who voted against a stop-gap bill Saturday to fund the government for another 45 days.
“We should have forced the Senate to take up the four appropriations bills that the House has passed,” Boebert was quoted by Colorado Public Radio as saying after the vote. “That should have been our play.”
During her phone-in town hall meeting on Thursday evening, Boebert, who represents Colorado’s sprawling 3rd Congressional District, said she had stayed in Washington, D.C., “with about two dozen lawmakers … stayed here in the negotiation room to try to figure out a way to avoid a shutdown of the federal government or make it as seamless as possible working together with the Senate, coming together and working in divided government.”
“The last thing I want is a government shutdown,” said Boebert in response to a listener’s question.
House Republicans on Thursday passed appropriations bills for the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and the State Department and Foreign Operations. A fourth bill, for military construction and veterans affairs, was passed in July. A bill for the Department of Agriculture did not pass.
None of the four bills has been passed by the Senate. All of them included right-wing amendments and riders, some of which were clearly ideological, anti-LGBTQ, surreptitiously anti-minority, and kept spending at 2022 levels.
Those are four of 12 government departments whose funding comes out of a slice of the federal government budget pie called discretionary spending, which has to be voted on by Congress every year. Nearly all defense spending comes out of the discretionary bucket. Had there been a shutdown, millions of service members, including some 37,900 active-duty troops in Colorado, would have had to continue to report for duty but would not have been paid until the government reopened.
The same applies to thousands of Customs and Border Patrol agents, air traffic controllers, and many other federal employees.
It does not apply to U.S. representatives like Boebert and her fellow Republican Congressman, Ken Buck, who also voted against the stop-gap funding bill. Lawmakers continue to get paid during shutdowns, of which there have been 21 since the 1970s.
Appearing to read from talking points, Boebert spoke during the town hall in rapid-fire, seemingly unpunctuated, almost Proustian sentences.
“My hope is that we (the House and Senate) can come to an agreement quickly, pass these and get that portion of the federal government funded and we can avoid our border patrol agents, our TSA agents and our military personnel from seeing a loss in their pay,” she said, quickly correcting herself to say, “Or a delay in their pay.”
The goal was to “get our fiscal house in order, that we cut reckless spending and that we go line by line through the funding of the federal government rather than just rubberstamping a ‘yes’ on these massive spending bills,” Boebert said during the town hall.
But the amendments and policy riders proposed by Boebert and other Republicans don’t, at a glance, appear to be aimed at saving money or helping the American people. They included a ban on funding for COVID vaccine passports, COVID masks, funding for drag shows, and cutting the salaries of at least half a dozen senior government officials to $1, for reasons including that they were “a radical leftist” (Ur M. Jaddou, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) or were failing at “his” job (the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn G. Skelly, a former Navy officer and transgender woman). The list is not complete.
Furthermore, Congress was never supposed to rush through and blindly OK spending bills. The process is supposed to last months, with Congress debating and amending and eventually passing all 12 bills that fund various federal agencies and activities before the start of the new fiscal year. But instead of steadily working their way through smaller, individual bills, Congress has tended to run out of time on the budget and bundle several bills into a single, massive omnibus bill or, in some instances, a long continuing resolution.
Boebert’s comments on avoiding a government shutdown came in response to a listener’s question that followed up on the topic the Congresswoman opened her town hall with: the House Oversight Committee’s impeachment hearing for President Joe Biden.
She listed a litany of accusations against Biden including that he dined with Russian and “Kakastan oligarchs who funneled money to Hunter and his associates;” that, when he was vice president, Biden used “government resources for personal gain such as Hunter accompanying him on Air Force 2 for a business meeting during an official visit to Beijing,” and more.
The House Oversight Committee had “22 pieces of evidence linking Joe Biden to extremely questionable activities including bribes and foreign association,” she said, without sharing any of it.
Her narrative also ran counter to reports of the hearing itself hours earlier, where the Republican-selected witnesses said there was no clear, impeachable evidence against Biden, and the panel failed to produce any.
So why, the listener named Jim asked, didn’t she and her Republican colleagues push through a continuing resolution to give them more time to “gather together the evidence for (impeaching) Biden and make more inroads in the increasing popularity of the Republican Party?”
“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Boebert replied. “So no matter what happens with the budget, we are still able to continue our efforts in the Oversight Committee in this impeachment inquiry that is going on and I do believe that inquiry will be in progress for several weeks to come.”