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Democrats warn Johnson not to cave to Freedom Caucus spending demands

House Democrats are warning leadership against including Republican-backed riders they’ve described as so-called “poison pills” in any annual government funding bills as both sides dig in their heels ahead of a shutdown deadline next week.

In a letter to House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle, more than a dozen Democrats on Friday pushed against annual government funding bills being advanced with “harmful poison pill policy riders.”

“We are extremely concerned that the House Republican Leadership continues to advocate for policy riders that have been shown time and time again to be unpopular with the American people and obstacles to completing the appropriations process,” the letter, first reported by Axios, states.

“Clean funding bills — free of contentious poison pill riders that members of both parties oppose — represent the best path forward as we work to fulfill our duty to the American people to keep the federal government running,” the letter continued.

Among the signatories listed on the letter are Democratic Reps. Deborah Ross (N.C.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Terri Sewell (Ala.), Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.).

The letter comes after the House Freedom Caucus dialed pressure up on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) earlier this week to put forward a yearlong stopgap funding bill. The legislation would trigger automatic cuts to government spending if the party doesn’t win concessions on controversial policy riders.

In a separate letter to Johnson, the ultraconservative caucus outlined a list of GOP-backed provisions for the party to focus on in spending talks. The list includes measures that would reduce “Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ salary to $0,” target the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy and defund Planned Parenthood. Also on the list are items taking aim at some of the Biden administration’s actions on student loans and funding for what it described as a “new, massive Pentagon-sized headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Congress currently has until March 1 to pass legislation that would keep various parts of the government funded, or risk a partial government shutdown. But concerns have already risen that lawmakers are headed for another short-term funding patch as negotiations heat up.

If Congress passes another stopgap funding bill to prevent a shutdown next week, it would be the fourth time that lawmakers have had to pass a short-term patch for fiscal 2024 since kicking its initial October deadline down the road last fall.

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