US House Speaker Passes Shutdown Prevention Bill With Democratic Support

  • By Madeline Halpert
  • BBC News, New York

image source, Getty Images


House Speaker Mike Johnson proposed a two-tier plan to avoid a government shutdown before funding runs out on Nov. 17

The US House of Representatives has passed a short-term funding bill in an attempt to avert a government shutdown looming on Friday, despite a major Republican rebellion.

The measure, the first major test for new House Speaker Mike Johnson, was approved by a vote of 336 to 95.

It keeps federal agencies open at current spending levels until mid-January.

The Senate is expected to approve the measure before the end of the week.

It must be signed into law by President Joe Biden before government funding expires on Nov. 17, or tens of thousands of federal employees would be temporarily furloughed without pay as soon as next week and various government services would be abruptly suspended.

Johnson hailed his passage as putting “House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative political victories”.

The vote required a two-thirds majority to pass. As of Tuesday night, 93 Republicans opposed the measure.

The bill drew criticism from the House Freedom Caucus — a group of like-minded Republicans who are fiscally conservative and regularly oppose party leadership — in part because it does not include the deep spending cuts they wanted.

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

The bill also does not include President Biden’s request for more than $100 billion (£80 billion) in funding, including for Ukraine and Israel.

But House Democrats sided with Mr. Johnson, citing the need to keep the government running.

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Watch: Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin challenges labor leader to fight

In a statement released before the vote, Democratic leadership said it would support the resolution because it was “free of harmful cuts and free of far-right political riders.”

The vote marked the first major test of leadership for the new Republican House speaker, Mr Johnson.

His unusual two-tier plan leaves parts of the government — including the Food and Drug Administration, Veterans Affairs and the Department of Transportation — funded until a January deadline, while others will be funded until early February.

The measure is intended to give lawmakers time to craft long-term spending bills.

Johnson’s continuing resolution is a so-called “clean” bill with no spending cuts, policy provisions or other conditions.

The president’s decision to overrule his party’s right flank and pass a funding bill with Democratic support is the same tactic that led to the ouster of his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, in October.

“We’re not surrendering,” Mr Johnson said after a closed-door meeting with House Republicans on Tuesday morning, referring to their slim 221-213 majority, “but you have to pick battles you can win”.

The new Speaker of the House is three weeks into the job, but discontent from some in his party on Tuesday indicated his political honeymoon could be short-lived.

Texas Congressman Chip Roy, an influential conservative, told reporters that the House Freedom Caucus is “trying to give the speaker some grace” but argued that “today is a mistake, right out of the gate”.

The Republican Party has seen a tumultuous two months after eight right-wing Republicans voted to impeach Mr McCarthy.

The incident prompted another Republican lawmaker, Matt Gaetz, to file an ethics complaint.

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