House Freedom Caucus pushing Johnson to attach border security bill to next CR in March

In addition to appropriations deadlines in March that need to be met to avoid a shutdown, Congress has to reauthorize FISA or pass reform before it expires in April.
Bob Good

The conservative House Freedom Caucus is actively pushing House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to attach a House-passed border security bill that's sitting in the U.S. Senate to the next spending bill that Congress must pass to avoid a government shutdown. 

H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023, passed the House in May. The bill would end the Biden administration's "catch and release" policy at the border as well as force the administration to restart construction of the border wall along open areas of the border, among other actions.

"I think we ought to be willing to have a fight over securing the border. I think we ought to refuse to fund the government if the administration continues to be unwilling to secure the border, then we ought to tie the funding of the government to border security implementation where some funds are held back until the measurables are met, the performance metrics that demonstrate that the border is being secured. And we do it to through Sept. 30 at the FRA levels," said House Freedom Caucus Bob Good, R-Va., during an exclusive interview with Just the News on Friday.

Good noted that he opposed the Financial Responsibility Act, which reflected the agreement between former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden.

"We had a chance last summer to have greater wins, but we didn't utilize the leverage that we had," he said. "That's why we have a new speaker. But it's a different reality. You recalibrate and you don't always get to fight the battle you want to fight. You have to sometimes fight the battle that you're in. I think the best case scenario would be a CR at FRA levels with no side deals, no gimmicks, no plus plus-ups, true $1.59 trillion spending with border security. I think that's what we should do."

Good said he supports including $14 billion of funding for Israel in their fight against Hamas as part of that spending deal. The Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid bill with funding for Israel, Ukraine and humanitarian efforts in Gaza that doesn't include any "pay-for" provisions to cover its costs.

Johnson has said he is in no rush to put that bill to a vote on the floor, given that it doesn't include border security measures from the House-passed H.R. 2 bill. Johnson did not negotiate the border deal that fell apart in the U.S. Senate. Johnson declared it "dead on arrival" in the House while it was being debated in the chamber.

When asked if he thinks Johnson supports tying H.R. 2 and Israel funding to the next spending bill, Good said: "I think he would like to do it. I think he agrees that would be a good thing to do but we've not yet successfully persuaded him to be willing to engage in a shutdown fight."

Good added that a spending bill with those components would get rejected by the Democrat-led Senate.

"They don't want to secure the border. They want to spend more than $1.59 trillion. They don't want Israel paid for so it will get rejected," he said. "But the American people would see us trying to fight for something to win for them. Some modest spending cut, standing with our ally Israel, not further exacerbating the debt by borrowing that money and fighting to secure the border. I think we win that fight with the American people."

Under McCarthy, the GOP-led House passed a 45-day temporary continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1, resulting in his ouster. House conservatives had objected to the CR, which received votes from both Republicans and Democrats to pass the House and Senate. McCarthy was removed as speaker on Oct. 3 after Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., introduced a motion to vacate the chair. The resolution passed the House with a small amount of votes from Republicans and votes from all Democrats present in the chamber.

As speaker, Johnson has moved two CRs to passage with votes from both Republicans and Democrats. Good was asked how he rates Johnson's job performance compared to McCarthy's speakership. "I certainly don't wish that we went back to a speaker who only believed in being speaker. His only conviction was being speaker," Good said.

Good argued that McCarthy had "only led us to pass one out of 12 spending bills before the last week of September when the deadline approached; who did not follow through on his commitment to impeach Mayorkas; who did not follow through on allowing us to have a vote on term limits; who did not allow us to have a vote on a balanced budget on the floor; who, once he was removed as speaker, spent the subsequent weeks trying to prevent anyone else from becoming speaker and running a shadow campaign to try to deny them the majority that they needed from Republicans to become speaker."

Good continued, saying, "Unlike 434 other members of Congress, he was not willing to serve in the Congress, even if it meant costing Republicans a seat in the majority just because he couldn't be speaker."

Despite his critique of McCarthy, Good said there have been some missed opportunities under Johnson.

"I wish that we had more tangible wins, and that we had not done these past two CRs or done the NDAA that we did with the FISA attachment to it. Those were disappointments and failures, and we should not have done those and those are more of the same," he said.

"I will acknowledge the fact that at least we're dealing with an honest broker. Someone who is a conservative at heart, someone who wants to do the right things, someone who we trust, in terms of his integrity and his desire to do conservative things. Someone who is far more open and accessible, whose core is aligned with the conservative center of the Republican conference," he added.

In addition to the spending deadlines in March, Congress has to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) or pass reform before it expires in April.

Conservative Republicans have renewed their call for an end to the warrantless surveillance of Americans as Congress considers reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Good told Just the News House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner that part of the reason Johnson delayed the scheduled FISA vote on Thursday because his committee threatened to block the legislation from coming to the floor if they had to vote on amendments related to ending the warrantless surveillance of Americans.

He said it would be a "colossal failure" to reauthorize FISA without an amendments process and called on House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to support allowing amendments.  "We must bring those amendments to the floor for a vote, we must get members on record. And it would be a terrible failure of leadership if we didn't do it," he said.

On Wednesday, Turner released a public statement about a unnamed serious national security threat and asked Biden to declassify information related to it. Good argued that the move was "intended to try to pressure or persuade members to vote for more power for the intelligence community" and reauthorize FISA.

Good told Just the News that Turner should no longer remain as chair of the committee.

"I do not think he should remain as chairman. I don't think he should remain as chairman because of what he's trying to do to reauthorize FISA without the appropriate reforms to protect the American people in terms of their, again, most precious basic constitutional rights," Good said during an interview with Just the News on Friday. "We have a Constitution that limits what government can do."

He continued, saying, "The position of the Intelligence Committee is in direct contradiction to that; direct violation of that. We've seen it abused ever since FISA was first put into place and with growing frequency."

Good noted that some Democrats like Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., also support ending warrantless surveillance of Americans under FISA. 

"Turns out some Democrats don't want to be spied on the government either," he said.