Speaker Johnson moves on two-step stopgap to avoid shutdown

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) rolled out a two-step government funding stopgap bill on Saturday, settling on an unusual approach to avert a government shutdown that is already getting pushback from Republicans with just days until a Friday funding deadline.

The “laddered” continuing resolution (CR) released Saturday would have some funding run out on Jan. 19, and the rest of the funding on Feb. 2 — an approach intended to discourage negotiation of a whole-of-government omnibus funding bill and to encourage the House and Senate to negotiate on the 12 regular funding bills.

The Jan. 19 date would be the funding deadline for government programs and agencies covered under regular appropriations bills pertaining to agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration; energy and water development; military construction and Veterans Affairs; and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development.

Funding for all other agencies and programs would run out on Feb. 2, creating the potential for a partial government shutdown before a full government shutdown.

The bill also extends the authorization of programs and authorities in the Farm Bill until Sept. 30, 2024, the end of the fiscal year — essentially adding a one-year extension to those programs from the Farm Bill that passed in 2018.

The CR funds the government at current spending levels without any budget cuts or additional major conservative policy riders, dealing a blow to Republicans who had sought to tie budget cuts or policy changes like changes to asylum laws to the bill. That prompted at least one Republican to voice immediate opposition to the “clean” extension.

“My opposition to the clean CR just announced by the Speaker to the @HouseGOP cannot be overstated. Funding Pelosi level spending & policies for 75 days – for future ‘promises,’” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) posted on X.

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But Johnson, in making one of the first major decisions of his Speakership, defended the plan.

“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to place House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories,” Johnson said in a statement on Saturday. “The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess. Separating out the CR from the supplemental funding debates places our conference in the best position to fight for fiscal responsibility, oversight over Ukraine aid, and meaningful policy changes at our Southern border.”

Not included in the bill is any aid to Israel, which does not have a clear path to final approval in Congress. House Republicans earlier this month passed a $14.3 billion aid package that included cuts to IRS funding as a pay-for. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would not take up in the upper chamber.

And it does not include funding for Ukraine, which Johnson has said should be considered independently from other foreign aid.

Some other government programs get extended until the Jan. 19 deadline under the bill.

Senate Democrats also appear unlikely to embrace the proposal.

“We are going to pass a clean short term CR. The only question is whether we do it stupidly and catastrophically or we do it like adults. There’s nothing inherently conservative about making simple things super convoluted, and all of this nonsense costs taxpayer money,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote on X.

The laddered CR is an approach that was generally favored by hard-line conservatives but had garnered skepticism from appropriators.

Earlier in the week, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), a House Appropriations subcommittee chair, said that he did not think a laddered CR approach was realistic and that the Senate would not accept such a plan.

Averting a government shutdown will be the first major test for Johnson as he takes the helm of a House that has been rocked by internal GOP turmoil over spending issues for months.

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was ousted in October in part over anger from eight Republicans about his move to pass a “clean” stopgap with the help of Democrats until Nov. 17, averting a shutdown after Republicans were unable to coalesce around a GOP-only plan to attempt to get concessions from the Senate.

Johnson voted against that clean stopgap bill.

This story was updated at 5:16 pm on Nov. 11.

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