WASHINGTON (CN) — With just days remaining before a stopgap federal budget is set to expire, House Republicans are scrambling to build consensus around legislation aimed at avoiding a painful government shutdown while appeasing the GOP’s most hardline spending hawks.
The federal budget is currently in stasis thanks to a short-term spending patch negotiated at the end of September between House Democrats and then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Known as a continuing resolution, the stopgap plan froze government spending at existing levels to give lawmakers time to negotiate a more permanent budget for the 2024 fiscal year.
McCarthy’s decision to pursue a “clean” continuing resolution — keeping federal funds stable with no additional provisions — angered hardline Republicans and ultimately cost him his position as House speaker. McCarthy’s ouster kicked off a monthlong leadership crisis in the House, ending with Louisiana Representative Mike Johnson’s ascent to the speakership.
Now, with the current stopgap budget slated to expire Friday, the newly minted Speaker Johnson has rolled out his own spending plan.
Dubbed a “laddered” continuing resolution, Johnson’s budget strategy unveiled over the weekend would extend funding for federal programs in two steps. The first would freeze spending for critical budget areas such as agriculture, energy and military facilities management until Jan. 19. The second part of the proposed stopgap would keep other government programs funded through the beginning of February.
Johnson has said that his laddered plan would separate federal spending necessary to keep the government open from supplemental budget squabbles, arguing in a Saturday post on X, formerly Twitter, that it would put Republicans in a good position to advocate for policy changes on a number of conservative priorities, such as budget cuts, oversight of Ukraine aid and border security.
“The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess,” Johnson wrote.
While the new speaker’s proposal would piecemeal federal funding extensions, it would not immediately cut spending from any government programs — which some GOP lawmakers said puts it on par with the “clean” continuing resolution negotiated in September by McCarthy.
“My opposition to the clean CR just announced by the Speaker to the House GOP cannot be overstated,” said Texas Representative Chip Roy on X. “Funding Pelosi level spending and policies for 75 days — for future ‘promises.” The post referred to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.
Roy argued over the weekend that, as the party of “limited government,” Republicans should oppose expanded federal spending. “The status quo is a fiscal death spiral,” he said.
Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who opposed McCarthy’s continuing resolution, also said that she would vote against Johnson’s measure. “We need to finish and the Senate needs to do their job,” she argued, referencing the need to finalize appropriations.
However, some staunchly conservative House Republicans have come out in support of Johnson’s continuing resolution, including Colorado Representative Ken Buck, and North Carolina Representative Dan Bishop, members of Congress’ hard-right Freedom Caucus. It’s unclear, though, whether the laddered approach will have the GOP support it needs to pass the House without at least some Democrats crossing the aisle.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has railed against the plan, demanding that Republicans bring up a straightforward continuing resolution. The Democrat-controlled Senate, meanwhile, has brought up its own clean stopgap spending bill.
Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown in September, when spending squabbles among Republican lawmakers forced McCarthy to work alongside Democrats on a short-term budget patch.
That move incensed hard-right Republicans, who led the charge to oust McCarthy in early October. The GOP struggled for three weeks to coalesce around a replacement, finally settling on Johnson after three other lawmakers failed to capture a majority of the caucus’s support.
If Congress can’t pass any sort of budget legislation by Friday, the lapse in funding will trigger a government shutdown — bottlenecking federal programs and freezing pay for thousands of government employees.Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
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