House speaker's plan to avert government shutdown faces hurdles

Washington — House Speaker Mike Johnson’s plan to keep the government open past Friday faces several hurdles this week as time runs out to avert a shutdown

Johnson unveiled his stopgap bill on Saturday that would extend government funding at current levels for some agencies until Jan. 19, while others would be funded until Feb. 2. It does not include steep spending cuts demanded by conservatives, but it also does not provide funding for Ukraine, Israel and the southern border. 

“The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess,” the Louisiana Republican said in a statement of the two-step plan. 

The House Rules Committee is meeting Monday afternoon to take up the bill. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the committee, was one of the first Republicans to come out against Johnson’s plan. 

“I can swallow temporary extension if we are getting actual ‘wins’ on … well … ANYTHING. But not just a punt,” he wrote ahead of the committee’s meeting. 

Even if the bill makes it out of committee, it could still fail on the House floor. Johnson can afford to lose only four Republican votes before he needs to rely on Democrats to help pass the bill. 

In addition to Roy, Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Warren Davidson of Ohio, George Santos of New York, Bob Good of Virginia and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania have said they oppose the measure. So, if they all follow through in voting against the bill, Johnson will need Democratic support to pass it.

Before the start of a new fiscal year on Oct. 1, Congress is responsible for passing a dozen appropriations bills that fund many federal government agencies for another year. The bills are often grouped together into a large piece of legislation, referred to as an “omnibus” bill. 

The House has passed seven bills, while the Senate has passed three that were grouped together in a “minibus.” None have made it through both chambers. 

Congress passed a last-minute deal in September to keep the federal government open through mid-November just hours before a shutdown was set to take effect. 

The bipartisan deal angered hard-right members who were opposed to any short-term extension that funded the government at current levels, and wanted the House to instead take up individual spending bills. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s detractors then ousted him from the role, which paralyzed the lower chamber from moving any legislation for three weeks as Republicans failed to come to a consensus over who should replace him.  

Weeks later, Johnson is in the same predicament. 

Johnson acknowledged earlier this month that there was “a growing recognition” that another stopgap spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, is needed to avert a government shutdown, adding that Republicans were considering a new approach to temporarily funding the government. 

He referred to the approach as a “laddered” continuing resolution that would set different lengths of funding for individual appropriations bills. The bill he rolled out Saturday extends appropriations dealing with veterans programs, transportation, housing, agriculture and energy until Jan. 19. Funding for eight other appropriations bills, including defense, would be extended until Feb. 2. 

Last week, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York called the “laddered” approach a “nonstarter.” But the bill’s exclusion of spending cuts and amendments could make it more appealing to Democrats. Jeffries has said such a bill “is the only way forward.”

A White House statement on Saturday condemning the bill as an “unserious proposal” stopped short of a veto threat, and Senate Democrats’ have mostly held back from criticizing it. 

The Senate will hold a procedural vote Monday night on a legislative vehicle for its short-term funding extension. 

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