Speaker Mike Johnson Unveils Never-Before-Attempted Budget Proposal to Avert US Government Shutdown

With a partial government shutdown looming in less than a week, US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson unveiled a two-step plan on Saturday to fund the government through the new year. The stopgap funding bill, often referred to as a “continuing resolution,” would extend funding for several federal agencies until late January, while the rest of the government would be funded through early February.

Johnson defended the bill as bucking “the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess,” in a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The Louisiana conservative, who has been in the top House job for less than a month and has never chaired a House committee, faces a steep climb to get the bill passed before the November 17 midnight deadline. If all Democrats are present and vote against the bill, Johnson can afford only four defectors in his own party in a vote that could come as early as Tuesday.

Yet the bill has to satisfy two dramatically opposed constituencies. On one side are the far-right House GOP members who ousted Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, over his resistance to imposing deep spending cuts during the budgeting process and have called for a staggered funding process. On the other hand, more moderate members in both chambers of Congress don’t like the idea of bifurcating the deadlines for funding federal programs. Johnson conceded during a private conference call with lawmakers Saturday that the bill likely would not get universal support from Republicans, The New York Times reported.

In just the last week alone, the House GOP punted on two separate funding votes due to divisions between hardline and moderate members, a sign that the sharp divisions that opened up during the speakership fiasco have not disappeared.

Already, some members of Congress in both parties are voicing their displeasure with Johnson’s proposal. Texas Representative Chip Roy, a hard-right House Freedom Caucus member, wrote that his opposition to the bill, which does not include any spending cuts, “cannot be overstated.” In another post, he wrote that he opposes the bill “100%”. On Thursday, amid reports that Johnson was weighing pushing forward with a staggered bill, Senate Appropriations Committee chair and Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray called the plan “the craziest, stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

The Biden administration immediately pounced on the plan. In a statement hours after Johnson unveiled the bill, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called it “a recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns.”

“With just days left before an extreme Republican shutdown — and after shutting down Congress for three weeks after they ousted their own leader — House Republicans are wasting precious time with an unserious proposal that has been panned by members of both parties,” Jean-Pierre said.

The White House is reportedly already prepping surrogates to use the likelihood of a shutdown to boost Joe Biden’s stubbornly low approval ratings. “The clock is ticking,” reads a copy of talking points distributed to Biden allies and obtained by Politico. “We are just X days from an Extreme Republican Shutdown that would: Force servicemembers and law enforcement officers to work without pay—risk significant delays for travelers. Undermine public health. Cut off funding for small businesses.”

On Friday, the ratings firm Moody’s downgraded the United States’ credit outlook to “negative,” citing “continued political polarization” within Congress.

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