House Republicans plan to avert a government shutdown

The newly elected Speaker of the US House, Mike Johnson, in Washington

U.S. House Speaker-elect Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks from his office to the House floor of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 26, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger License Rights Acquire

WASHINGTON, Nov 11 (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson on Saturday unveiled a Republican spending freeze measure aimed at averting a government shutdown in a week, but the measure quickly ran into opposition from lawmakers from both parties in Congress.

Unlike regular continuing resolutions, or “CRs,” that fund federal agencies for a set period, the measure Johnson announced would fund some parts of the government until Jan. 19 and others until Feb. 2. House Republicans hope to pass the measure on Tuesday.

“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to put House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories,” Johnson said in a statement after announcing the plan to House Republicans in a conference call.

The House Republican interim measure did not include any supplemental funding such as aid to Israel or Ukraine.

The House and Democratic-led Senate must agree on a spending measure that President Joe Biden can sign into law by Friday or risk a fourth partial government shutdown in a decade that would close national parks, disrupt pay for as many as 4 million federal workers and disrupt a range of activities from financial oversight to scientific research.

Johnson, the top Republican in Congress, unveiled his hiatus a day after Moody’s, the last major credit rating agency to maintain a top “AAA” rating on the U.S. government, lowered its outlook on the nation’s credit to “negative” from “stable,” referring to political polarization in Congress over spending as a danger to the nation’s fiscal health.

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The Louisiana Republican appeared to appeal to two warring Republican factions in the House: hardliners who wanted legislation with multiple end dates; and centrists who had called for a “clean” measure without spending cuts and conservative policy riders, which Democrats reject.

The legislation would extend funding for military construction, veterans benefits, transportation, housing, urban development, agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and energy and water programs through Jan. 19. Funding for all other federal operations expires on February 2.

But the plan quickly came under fire from members of both parties.

“My opposition to the clean CR just announced by the Speaker to the @HouseGOP cannot be overstated,” Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, said on social media platform “X,” formerly known as Twitter.

“It’s a 100% purity. And I’m 100% against it,” wrote Roy, who had called for the new measure to include spending cuts.

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz called Johnson’s measure “super convoluted,” adding that “all this nonsense is costing taxpayers money.”

“We will pass a purely short-term CR. The only question is whether we do it stupidly and catastrophically, or we do it like adults,” Schatz said at X.

One measure would give lawmakers more time to implement full-scale appropriations bills to fund the government through Sept. 30.

Johnson warned Democrats that failure to agree on 2024 spending would prompt House Republicans to implement “a full-year CR with appropriate adjustments to meet our national security priorities.”

House Republican hardliners have pushed to cut 2024 spending below the $1.59 trillion level agreed to by Biden and Johnson’s predecessor in the May deal that averted a default. But even that is a small slice of the total federal budget, which also includes mandatory spending for Social Security and Medicare, peaking at $6.1 trillion in fiscal year 2023.

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Johnson, who won the speaker’s gavel less than three weeks ago, could be putting his own political future on the line if his current plan fails to win support for passage and he is forced to go with a standard CR that Democrats can accept.

His predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was kicked out of the job by eight Republican hardliners early last month after he moved a bipartisan measure to avert a shutdown on Oct. 1, when the 2024 fiscal year began. McCarthy chose the bipartisan route after hardliners blocked a Republican stopgap measure with features meant to appease them.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio

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