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The U.S. government moves toward a shutdown as spending bill stalls in the House

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

A U.S. government shutdown may be just days away. Yesterday, after a few right-wing Republican holdouts again managed to block progress on a routine defense spending bill, some lawmakers started to head home for the weekend. Congressman Tim Burchett, a Republican from Tennessee, took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to express his, quote, "total disgust." He said lawmakers should stay in D.C. and work through differences. Congressman, what disgust you most about all this?

TIM BURCHETT: I think just the complete capitulation of our duties. We've - we know what we've got to do. And the bills that we've got ahead of us, we've got - I think we've seen some good movement, though. But I'm disgusted that they'd send us home. And it just seems like we're not very - doing things that are very conducive to finishing our job here and passing a budget.

MARTÍNEZ: Congressman, if the government shuts down, House Republicans cannot start an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Do you think that could serve as a motivator to get a deal done right?

BURCHETT: No. I don't think so. I think the problem we've got is, is just that it's just - this is the way it's always been done in Washington. You know, they want to pass what's called a CR because we haven't passed a budget and maybe 30 years. Jodey Arrington out of Texas chairs our Budget Committee. I was on the Budget Committee when I first got into Congress, but I asked to be taken off of it because they don't do anything. They're not - they haven't - neither party's passed a budget. And it really serves the leadership and the old hands well, because we do what's called a continued resolution, which is just continuing the funding that we had before.

So if they got their sweetheart projects and deals in there, it just continues on. And this last one was a 30-day continued resolution. And we're told, let's pass this continued resolution so that we can quit passing continued resolutions. And I said, well, that's like giving a heroin addict heroin to get him off of heroin. It just doesn't work. And so they'll do another 30-day continued resolution, and then they'll back us up against the Christmas break. And then they'll pass what's called an omnibus, which is just a complete pile-in of bills. And you remember speaker Pelosi's...

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

BURCHETT: ...Famous words where she said, we got to pass it to know what's in it. And that's exactly what you do with an omnibus. And...

MARTÍNEZ: How likely is that, Congressman? It sounds like you're almost saying that that's going to happen.

BURCHETT: Well, is what's happened every year under Pelosi, under everyone prior to her for maybe 30 years. And an omnibus - and what happens with an omnibus is that you read down until you find what's in your district. And then if you got your projects or whatever you want, you vote for the entire bill. And there's 2,000 pages of spending and special projects and pork and whatnot in there, and there's some - and good things in there, too. But that's why we're - we were 32 trillion - now, $33 trillion - in debt. Both parties are guilty of it. It's - it keeps the powerful in power. And that's what this town's all about.

You know, as long as we're fighting, as long as Black folks and white folks and everybody's fighting, the same leadership - basically - structure stays in power. What we're doing right now is mixing it up. We've asked to actually have individual spending bills brought before Congress instead of piling them on. I don't see any problem with it. That's the way we do it in Tennessee. And Tennessee has a balanced budget. They have zero debt, in fact.

MARTÍNEZ: Is this about spending? It sounds like it's more about politics, Congressman. Is it about spending or about politics?

BURCHETT: And you can call me Tim, A. No, it's a combination. But spending is politics. And my point and my conservative friends' point is, is that we're spending too much money. Now, for instance, we're going to take in about $5 trillion this year. So - but by any conservative model you see, we're going to spend $7 trillion. Now, that doesn't work at NPR. That doesn't - heck, that doesn't work anywhere. It doesn't work at your church. It doesn't work at your charity. It doesn't work at your business. Americans have a budget, and their families have budgets. And they know how much they're taking in, and they know how much they can spend. And Congress and the United States government does not. All 50 states have budgets that they follow. Some are good. Some are bad. But...

MARTÍNEZ: Right.

BURCHETT: ...The United States does not. And they just spend it and keep spending it. And both parties are guilty of it. And it keeps the powerful in power.

MARTÍNEZ: So...

BURCHETT: And frankly, I'm sick of it.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. On spending, do you agree with the tactics of a small group of your colleagues, your Republican colleagues, that are threatening to challenge Kevin McCarthy's speakership if he doesn't give in to their demands on spending?

BURCHETT: Yeah. I mean, if you don't - if it's not - if you don't get what you need for your district. I represent my district. I represent East Tennessee, very conservative, fiscally minded folks that basically want the government to leave them alone. If we continue down this path of spending more than we're taking in, I don't see any problem - yeah. There's going to be a problem there in leadership, and we know we've got it. I mean, you - we've got...

MARTÍNEZ: So do you not...

BURCHETT: ...The chairman of our...

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Do you not support Kevin McCarthy as House speaker?

BURCHETT: I've voted for him 15 times, brother. And so I don't think my loyalty is any question. But we've got some real problems.

MARTÍNEZ: Do you have questions? Do you have questions or doubts about his leadership?

BURCHETT: Absolutely. We've got some - because you cannot let the train leave the station and say, we need 218 or whatever votes. And then whatever happens, they jump on board.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

BURCHETT: We need clear leadership and clear direction. And we're not getting that right now.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Republican Congressman Tim Burchett of Tennessee. Congressman, thanks.

BURCHETT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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