House voting today on proposal to avert government shutdown

Washington — The House is poised to vote Tuesday on a two-step proposal from Speaker Mike Johnson to fund federal agencies into the new year and avert a government shutdown, which poses the first test for the newly elected speaker, who will not be able to get the measure passed without the votes of Democrats.

Johnson’s measure, which he unveiled Saturday, extends federal funding at current levels for one group of agencies and programs through Jan. 19, and a second batch through Feb. 2. The stopgap funding plan, known as a continuing resolution, will be taken up by the House under a suspension of the rules and must win support from two-thirds of the chamber, or 290 lawmakers, to pass the lower chamber.

For this reason, Johnson, who was elected to lead the House just three weeks ago, will need to rely on votes from dozens of Democratic lawmakers to clear the House, since conservatives are pushing back against his plan.

What are the odds of passage? Who opposes the bill and who supports it?

On Tuesday morning, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right Republican lawmakers, announced its opposition to the stopgap measure because it doesn’t include spending cuts or provisions to strengthen border security. 

“Republicans must stop negotiating against ourselves over fears of what the Senate may do with the promise ‘roll over today and we’ll fight tomorrow,'” the group said in a statement. 

But the lack of additional policy changes, especially those favored by conservative lawmakers, could ensure greater support from House Democrats, who have said they want to avoid a government shutdown and favor a “clean” continuing resolution.

“From the very beginning of this Congress, Democrats have made clear that we are going to find common ground with our Republican colleagues on any issue in good faith whenever and wherever possible, but that we will also push back against their extremism whenever necessary,” Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters Tuesday. “That’s been the framework approach that we’ve taken from the beginning. That’ll be the lens through which we evaluate the continuing resolution today.”

Jeffries said Democrats have some concerns about the bifurcated deadlines in Johnson’s plan, but said it’s “extremely important” to avoid a funding lapse.

The short-term funding package is the first major piece of legislation that the House is taking up since Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, claimed the gavel last month. His ascension to the speakership capped a chaotic October for House Republicans, which began with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s historic removal from the post as a result of a deal he made with Democrats in late September to keep agencies funded for 45 days — through Nov. 17.

All House Democrats backed McCarthy’s stopgap measure, and though his agreement avoided a lapse in government funding, it triggered backlash from far-right Republicans that ultimately cost him the gavel. As a result of McCarthy’s removal, the House was left without a speaker for three weeks and found itself effectively paralyzed.

Though Johnson is following a similar path as McCarthy in pursuing a funding bill that maintains spending levels and does not include conservative priorities, there appears to be less of an appetite among conservative lawmakers to take action against the speaker. 

The Freedom Caucus said in its statement announcing opposition to the two-step continuing resolution that it remains “committed” to working with Johnson, but called for “bold change.”

Johnson, meanwhile, has defended his approach and said his so-called laddered continuing resolution will avoid Congress being forced to accept a massive omnibus spending package right before the holidays.

“That is a gift to the American people, because that is no way to legislate. It is not good stewardship. It’s the reason we’re in so much debt,” he said. 

Johnson said the Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 deadlines will allow lawmakers to work through the appropriations process “in good faith.”

“What we need to do is avoid the government shutdown,” he said. “Why? Because that would unduly harm the American people. Troops wouldn’t be paid. We know all the effects of that, and so we have to avoid that and we have a responsibility to do it.”

No emergency funding for Israel or Ukraine in stopgap measure

Left out of Johnson’s funding proposal is emergency assistance for Israel and Ukraine, which President Biden had requested Congress provide after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. It’s unclear when Congress could act to approve the additional funding, but the speaker said approving the short-term funding measure will allow Republicans to pursue discussions on necessary oversight for Ukraine aid and provide assistance to Israel.

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