WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Saturday released their stopgap funding bill, which averts a government shutdown that would begin next weekend. But with five days to go before the deadline, Congress has no room for error.
Two and a half weeks later, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., chose to go with a two-step continuing resolution, or CR, for a general funding extension covering the entire federal government. The untested funding approach is aimed at appeasing far-right rebels in his GOP convention who despise CRs.
A vote is expected on Tuesday to give members 72 hours to read the text of the bill, two people familiar with the matter said. The plan includes no budget cuts or aid to Israel.
Under the two-step strategy — which Johnson and others have called a “laddered CR,” but which others have compared to a one-step stool — many spending bills needed to keep the government open would ride on a short-term bill until Jan. 1. 19, the rest of the bills will go in the CR till February 2.
The plan is designed to avoid a messy strike action ahead of the holidays and buy Johnson and House Republicans more time to pass individual spending bills. But it remains to be seen whether the plan will pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which has rejected a two-tier approach.
“I think we’ll avoid a shutdown,” Johnson said New York Post Earlier this week.
The ladder plan has the support of the most conservative members of Congress, including Republicans, who typically do not vote for stopgap bills. If Johnson passes a temporary funding bill with Republican votes, it could help him win early among conservatives.
“I like the ladder approach,” said a hard-right member of the House Freedom Caucus, R-Colo. Rep. Ken Buck said. “If we try to pass some appropriations bills, I think we’re doing better than we’ve done in the past.”
But Democrats in both chambers have made it clear they hate the idea, as has the White House. Democrats’ concerted opposition to a laddered CR means the House will eventually have to swallow whatever clean or relatively clean CR passes the Senate.
“I want a clean CR,” declared Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.
Democratic Party Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York rejected the two-tiered approach when pressed by NBC News on Thursday. “A continuing resolution that is in FY 2023 is the only way forward because that is the status quo,” he said, arguing for a “clean” CR.
Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voted on a separate stopgap measure, setting the wheels in motion for action next week. The Democratic-led Senate is looking at a clean continuation resolution until mid-January, without additional funding for Ukraine, Israel and the border, according to two sources directly involved in the process.
But Schumer may need a time deal from all 100 senators to fund the government by Friday’s deadline, something Senate hardliners are reluctant to give.
“I plead with Speaker Johnson and our House Republican colleagues and learn from the defeat of a month ago. “Hard-right proposals, hard-right tilts and cuts, hard-right poison pill shutdowns with zero support from Democrats are more likely,” Schumer said in a podium speech.
What’s clear is that after last month’s public GOP civil war over the speaker’s kevel, Republicans have little desire to shut down the government. Rep. Dan Bishop, RN.C. Even some staunch conservatives, such as those who have said they are willing to vote for a CR to keep the government open, don’t care how it’s structured.
“I’m ready to support a CR, and if you follow me, that’s a 180-degree turn,” said Bishop, a member of the Freedom Caucus running for North Carolina attorney general.
He said his wife recently asked him what was happening in Congress this week. He replied: “Finding out what the features of CR will be.”
“I don’t think Americans care that much,” Bishop added.
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