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Spending bill latest: Different kicker, same can?

Democrats help House Speaker Mike Johnson pass stopgap funding

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., addressing reporters before the vote on a continuing resolution on Tuesday Associate Press/Photo by Mariam Zuhaib

Spending bill latest: Different kicker, same can?

Democrats joined House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to help pass a resolution Tuesday to keep the government open, nearly duplicating the events that led to the ouster of Johnson’s predecessor.

The measure, called a continuing resolution, passed by a vote of 336-95. All but two of the no votes came from Republicans.

“This is not the right approach. [Johnson] knows that’s how we feel,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said moments after casting his vote against the motion. “We’re going to give him a little bit of room, but I’m not going to give any room about my analysis on the bill. That’s not the way we want to do business.”

The events of the past few days in the House show that the fissures dividing the Republican caucus under former Speaker Kevin McCarthy remain wide open. The latest funding resolution has bought the new speaker a few months’ time to try to bring the GOP together and keep the government running.

Six weeks ago, Republicans faced a similar challenge. With his back up against a shutdown and the expectations of his party, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy chose to buy time through a similar bill to the one Johnson passed on Tuesday. In its wake, eight frustrated Republicans led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz joined with Democrats to force McCarthy out of his role.

With funding from the first resolution set to run out this Friday, Johnson proposed something he called a “laddered continuing resolution.” It finances Social Security, government agencies, public health services, Medicaid, Medicare, and human services through Jan. 19, 2024. Remaining funding, which includes defense, would extend through Feb. 2.

The bill is about as good a deal as Democrats could have hoped to get from a speaker under intense pressure from his own party to cut spending. It contains no reductions or policy changes from current spending levels.

But the measure is a far cry from what Republicans hoped to achieve through the regular, 12-bill appropriations process. To date, Republicans have passed eight bills, allocating funds for next year to agriculture, defense, energy and water, homeland security, the interior and environment, the legislative branch, military construction and veterans affairs, and state and foreign operations. Those bills account for roughly 70 percent of federal funding in 2024 and contain spending cuts not included in the continuing resolution. The bill on transportation, for instance, looks to trim spending by $7 billion in that department. The Senate has only passed three of these bills through a consolidated package. None of them have President Joe Biden’s signature yet.

In the meantime, the continuing resolution carries a steep political price for Johnson’s fledgling leadership. It passed by a vote of 336-95, with 93 Republicans voting against it.

Moments before the bill came to the floor, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries put out a statement supporting the resolution.

“House Democrats have repeatedly articulated that any continuing resolution must be set at the fiscal year 2023 spending level, be devoid of harmful cuts and free of extreme right-wing policy riders,” Jeffries wrote. “The continuing resolution before the House today meets that criteria and we will support it.”

Rep Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., says she considers any bill that extends current spending levels a failure. It doesn’t matter if the gavel is held by McCarthy, Johnson, or someone else.

“I think if you’re going to oust a speaker of the House from your conference, the red line should remain the same for the next speaker,” said Green, who voted against Johnson’s resolution. “What’s the point of throwing out one speaker if nothing changes? The only way to make real changes happen is to make the red line stay the same for every speaker after that.”

So, would she file a motion to remove Johnson one month into the job?

“I wasn’t one of the eight. I didn’t do that,” Green said, referencing the group of Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy.

Any one member can initiate a motion to vacate the chair. With a razor-thin majority, it would only take five Republicans to turn that motion into a reality.

For now, Johnson and the House Republicans have at least three months to meet the new deadlines. I asked Roy if he felt optimistic about that window of time and the work ahead of the chamber.

“He’s a friend and a good man,” Roy said of Johnson. “But I’ll be optimistic when we actually pick a fight.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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