Washington, D.C. – November 14, 2023
House Speaker Mike Johnson’s strategy to avert a government shutdown faces consideration by the House on Tuesday, as revealed in a notice sent to lawmakers late Monday night. The proposed stopgap measure, referred to as a continuing resolution, will be presented on the “House floor” under the suspension of rules, bypassing the “House Rules Committee” where Republicans had indicated reluctance to advance the bill. However, this procedural move comes with conditions—it cannot be amended, and it necessitates a two-thirds majority for passage in the House.
This procedural tactic mirrors the approach taken by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in late September, successfully preventing a government shutdown but resulting in McCarthy losing the speakership after a vote of no confidence was introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Similar to McCarthy, Speaker Johnson must rely on Democratic support to push the stopgap measure through. Unlike McCarthy, there is no apparent indication of a swift effort by Republicans to remove Johnson, considering his relatively short time as speaker.
Johnson presented a plan on Saturday that details a two-phase approach. In the first step, government funding for specific agencies would be extended at the existing levels until January 19, and for others, funding would be prolonged until February 2. Notably, the plan excludes significant spending cuts demanded by conservatives and does not allocate funds for Ukraine, Israel, and the southern border.
Describing the bill, the Louisiana Republican stated, “The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded-up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess.”
While the House Rules Committee met on Monday afternoon to discuss the bill, it did not pass a rule enabling floor debate. Representative Chip Roy of Texas, a committee member, was among the first Republicans to express opposition to Johnson’s plan, emphasizing the need for substantial wins rather than a temporary extension.
Several other Republican representatives, including Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Warren Davidson of Ohio, George Santos of New York, Bob Good of Virginia, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, have also voiced their opposition to the measure. If these representatives vote against the bill as stated, Johnson will require Democratic support for its passage.
As the current fiscal year deadline approaches on October 1, Congress is tasked with passing a dozen appropriations bills to fund various federal government agencies. While the House has passed seven bills and the Senate has passed three in a “minibus,” none have successfully navigated through both chambers.
In September, Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown with a last-minute deal to keep the federal government open through mid-November. However, the bipartisan deal sparked discontent among hard-right members, leading to the removal of Speaker McCarthy and subsequent delays in legislative proceedings.
Recognizing the need for another stopgap spending bill, Speaker Johnson introduced a “laddered” continuing resolution earlier this month, setting different lengths of funding for individual appropriations bills. The current bill extends appropriations for veterans programs, transportation, housing, agriculture, and energy until January 19, while funding for eight other appropriations bills, including defense, would be extended until February 2.
The “laddered” approach faced opposition from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who deemed it a “nonstarter.” However, the bill’s exclusion of spending cuts and amendments makes it more appealing to Democrats, with Jeffries acknowledging it as the only viable path forward.
While the White House criticized the bill as an “unserious proposal,” President Biden indicated on Monday that he could consider signing it if it passes Congress. Senate Democrats, while noting the bill’s imperfections, have refrained from outright criticism, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer characterized it as “far from perfect” but highlighted its avoidance of steep cuts and inclusion of defense spending in the February extension.
The Senate was originally set to hold a “procedural vote” on Monday night for its short-term funding extension but opted to delay, allowing the House to proceed first with its proposal. With a government shutdown deadline looming on Friday at midnight, Congress faces crucial decisions in the coming days to secure short-term funding and avert a potential crisis.