Discussions are ramping up in the House GOP conference around a funding plan to prevent a government shutdown. But the plan is leaving some members scratching their heads.
Republicans have been tossing around a plan to avoid a shutdown on Nov. 18 by passing a short-term funding bill that would set up different deadlines down the road for different parts of the government.
Those who like this “laddered” approach hope it would put pressure on the Senate to negotiate with the House on the 12 annual government funding bills.
But it’s getting mixed reviews from Republicans.
How would it work?
New Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) floated the idea last week, but House Republicans have said the conference is still working out the details.
Congress normally passes a continuing resolution or “CR” that serves as a short-term funding measure to keep the government operating while congressional lawmakers negotiate a longer deal. A CR freezes overall government funding at levels last passed into law.
Republicans say the laddered CR would extend funding for all programs through multiple deadlines based on how much work it will take for both chambers to agree on funding for different programs.
“The idea, I think, is to stagger the CR so you’re not inviting or appearing to implicitly endorse an [omnibus] at any point,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) told The Hill last week.
Discussing the idea on Tuesday, Johnson described it as a potentially two-phased proposal.
“You would do one part of the subset of the bills by the December date, and the rest of it by the January date,” Johnson said. “The other alternative is a CR that would go into January for certain stipulations.”
While the pitch has had some support in the conference, it’s also been met with confusion as well as some resistance.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), head of the subcommittee that oversees defense spending, said on Tuesday that he doesn’t “think it’s realistic” given opposition in the Democratic-led Senate.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the subcommittee that crafts funding for the housing and transportation programs, told The Hill on Tuesday that he agrees with Calvert.
“His concern is to get to a deal. What he doesn’t want is a cascading government shutdown that ends up in the year-long CR,” Cole said, while emphasizing the need for defense programs to be funded “at a high level.”
“I get that. I’m with Calvert. He’s just trying to push us toward a deal where we don’t shut down the government and we fund defense at the appropriate level,” Cole said.
“Congress has a hard time walking and chewing gum,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), another spending cardinal, also told The Hill on Tuesday. “How are we going to juggle multiple deadlines and different approaches?”
The other options
Members have also discussed a “clean” CR that would simply extend existing funding across the government.
“Just give a clean CR, keep passing the bills individually and challenge the Senate to start conferencing,” Cole said, while warning against a shutdown threat as “good leverage.”
“That’s taking a hostage you can’t shoot. You’re not going to win that way,” Cole said. “And the reality is, at the end of the day, if you have a clean CR, I think it’s awfully difficult, and I mean, not connected with Ukraine or border or anything else, it’s awfully hard for the Senate to turn that down.”
However, the idea has already gotten pushback from the party’s right flank.
Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Tuesday that he would not support a clean CR.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be laddered, but there’s got to be something that takes you beyond Christmas, and there has to be something that you can take back home,” he said, naming potential add-ons like measures aimed at border security or establishing a debt commission.
“That you can say, ‘hey, we’re serious about fixing the problems of America,’ and those are the two biggest ones right there: An open border and uncontrolled bridled spending and debt,” he said.
Emily Brooks contributed.