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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Johnson pitches bill to avert government shutdown that faces an uncertain fate


Speaker Mike Johnson said his bill would “stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded-up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess.

By Catie Edmondson


Speaker Mike Johnson on Saturday pitched House Republicans on a convoluted plan to avert a government shutdown at the end of this coming week, proposing a bill that would temporarily extend funding for some federal agencies until late January and for others through early February.


The measure faces an uncertain fate in Congress. Many conservative House Republicans have demanded that any spending plan include deep spending cuts, and Democrats and some GOP senators have sharply questioned the idea of bifurcating federal programs and staggering the deadlines for funding them.


A vote on the plan could come as early as Tuesday, just days before the Friday midnight deadline for keeping the government funded.


Setting two different end dates in what Johnson is calling a “two-step continuing resolution” was an effort to allay the concerns of hard-right lawmakers who have long railed against the now-routine practice of funding the entire government through one mammoth bill. Some members of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus have endorsed the two-step idea in recent days.


“The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded-up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess,” Johnson wrote on social media following a private conference call with lawmakers to outline the plan.


The 32-page legislation would extend government funding for a number of federal programs — including veterans’ and military construction programs, agriculture, transportation, housing, and energy and water development — through Jan. 19. All other federal programs would be funded through Feb. 2.


The bill omits funding for Ukraine or Israel, which Johnson framed as a way for Republicans to put themselves in a stronger bargaining position for negotiations with the Senate and the White House on an emergency national security spending bill that would not be subject to the threat of a shutdown.


But it remained to be seen whether enough House Republicans — including many who have objected to any stopgap funding measure and others who have insisted that such a bill slash spending — would support it.


Nor was it immediately clear whether any House Democrats would back the proposal if GOP lawmakers balked and their votes were needed to pass the plan. Hours after Johnson unveiled the legislation, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre panned it as “a recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns.”


“With just days left before an extreme Republican shutdown — and after shutting down Congress for three weeks after they ousted their own leader — House Republicans are wasting precious time with an unserious proposal that has been panned by members of both parties,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement.


If all Democrats were present and opposed the plan, Johnson could afford to lose no more than four Republican votes. He conceded during the conference call Saturday that his measure likely would not receive unanimous backing from Republicans, according to people familiar with his remarks in the private call who described them on the condition of anonymity.


Already one Republican, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, has declared that he would oppose the plan because it would continue current spending levels with no changes or conditions — what is known in Washington shorthand as a “clean” funding extension.


“It’s 100% clean,” Roy wrote on social media. “And I 100% oppose.”


Johnson’s predecessor as speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, was ousted from his job last month after it became clear he could not pass a stopgap spending bill with Republican votes alone and he instead relied on Democrats to pass legislation to avert a shutdown.


But Johnson’s internal standing in the Republican conference is very different than McCarthy’s was at the time.


The hard-right members of the Freedom Caucus who ousted McCarthy have repeatedly said that they are prepared to give Johnson more latitude in spending negotiations than they gave to McCarthy. They trust his conservative bona fides in a way they never trusted McCarthy’s, and also acknowledge that Johnson only took office less than three weeks ago, leaving him little time to prepare for a spending showdown with the Senate and White House.


In the Senate, lawmakers in both parties on the powerful Appropriations Committee have expressed skepticism about the idea of a funding plan with staggered deadlines. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the panel’s chair, told Roll Call this past week that such an idea was “the craziest, stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”


Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the panel, said a “stop-and-go” plan would “increase the difficulty” of funding the government.


But the legislation also does not include any spending cuts or conservative policies that congressional Democrats have publicly warned Johnson against including.


Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, cautioned Thursday that “hard-right proposals, hard-right slashing cuts, hard-right poison pills that have zero support from Democrats will only make a shutdown more likely.”


“I hope they don’t go down that path in the week to come,” Schumer said.


The House Rules Committee is set to take up the legislation Monday afternoon, setting up a vote on the House floor as early as Tuesday.

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