House passes plan to avert shutdown

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., meets with reporters ahead of a crucial vote on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at its current levels, a measure not heartily supported by the hard right wing of his party, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., meets with reporters ahead of a crucial vote on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at its current levels, a measure not heartily supported by the hard right wing of his party, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


WASHINGTON -- The House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to prevent a government shutdown after new Republican Speaker Mike Johnson was forced to reach across the aisle to Democrats when hard-right conservatives revolted against his plan.

Johnson's proposal to temporarily fund the government into the new year passed on a bipartisan 336-95 tally, but 93 Republicans voted against it. It was the first time the new speaker had to force vital legislation through the House, and he showed a willingness to leave his right-flank Republicans behind and work with Democrats -- the same political move that cost the last House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., his job just weeks ago.

This time, Johnson, of Louisiana, appeared on track for a temporarily better outcome. His approach, which the Senate is expected to approve by week's end, effectively pushes a final showdown over government funding to the new year.

"Making sure that government stays in operation is a matter of conscience for all of us. We owe that to the American people," Johnson said earlier Tuesday at a news conference at the Capitol.

The new Republican leader faced the same political problem that led to McCarthy's ouster -- angry, frustrated, hard-right GOP lawmakers rejected his approach, demanded budget cuts and voted against the plan. Rather than the applause and handshakes that usually follow passage of a bill, several hard-line conservatives animatedly confronted the speaker as they exited the chamber.

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of approximately three dozen hard-right lawmakers, announced before the vote that it would oppose the measure.

"It contains no spending reductions, no border security and not a single meaningful win for the American people," the group wrote in a statement. "Republicans must stop negotiating against ourselves over fears of what the Senate may do with the promise 'roll over today and we'll fight tomorrow.'"

The opposition from hard-line conservatives left Johnson with few other options than to skip what is typically a party-only procedural vote and to rely on another process that requires a two-thirds tally with Democrats for passage.

Without enough support from his Republican majority, Johnson had little choice but to rely on Democrats to ensure passage to keep the federal government running.





Johnson's proposal puts forward a unique two-part process that temporarily funds some federal agencies to Jan. 19 and others to Feb. 2. It is a continuing resolution that comes without any of the deep cuts conservatives have demanded all year. It also fails to include President Joe Biden's request for nearly $106 billion for Ukraine, Israel, border security and other supplemental funds.

"We're not surrendering," Johnson assured after a private meeting of House Republicans on Tuesday morning, vowing he would not support another stopgap. "But you have to choose fights you can win."

"I want to cut spending right now and I would like to put policy riders" on the bill, he said. "But when you have a three-vote majority -- as we do right now -- we don't have the votes. So what we need to do is avoid the government shutdown."

Johnson, who announced his endorsement Tuesday of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president, hit the airwaves to sell his approach and met privately Monday night with the conservative Freedom Caucus.

Johnson says the innovative approach would position House Republicans to "go into the fight" for deeper spending cuts in the new year, but many Republicans are skeptical that there will be any better outcome in January.

Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican who is part of the House Freedom Caucus, threatened to take the House floor hostage if the chamber does not pass all of the appropriations bills by the deadlines.

He said some of his colleagues believed Johnson's promise that he would not advance another stopgap bill to fund the government and was only doing so because he had only become speaker a few weeks ago.

"If you're storming the beaches of Normandy and the commanding officer goes down and somebody else takes over you don't say, 'Oh well, you get a honeymoon period,'" Roy said. "You got to pick it up and go. And so for me, this was a strategic failure. We should not do this. You should not be passing $400 billion under suspension of the rules. And that's what we're going to be doing."

He continued: "We're trying to give the speaker a little grace, but today's a mistake, right out of the gate."

Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries noted in a letter to colleagues that the GOP package met Democratic demands to keep funding at current levels without steep reductions or divisive Republican policy priorities.

In a statement alongside other Democratic leaders, Jeffries said they would try to find common ground with Republicans whenever possible and pointed out that a federal shutdown "would hurt the economy, our national security and everyday Americans."

"Look, we're going to trust the speaker's move here," Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a McCarthy ally who opposed his ouster, said Johnson should be held to the same standard. "What's the point in throwing out one speaker if nothing changes? The only way to make sure that real changes happen is make the red line stay the same for every speaker."

The Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority, has signaled its willingness to accept Johnson's package ahead of Friday's deadline to fund the government.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the House package "a solution" and said he expected it to pass Congress with bipartisan support.

"It's nice to see us working together to avoid a government shutdown," he said.

But McConnell, R-Ky., has noted that Congress still has work to do toward Biden's request to provide U.S. military aid for Ukraine and Israel and for other needs. Senators are trying to devise a separate package to fund U.S. supplies for the overseas wars and to bolster border security, but it remains a work in progress.

If approved, passage of the continuing resolution would be a less-than-triumphant capstone to the House GOP's first year in the majority. The Republicans have worked tirelessly to cut federal government spending only to find their own GOP colleagues unwilling to go along with the most conservative priorities. Two of the Republican bills collapsed last week as moderates revolted.

Instead, the Republicans are left funding the government essentially on autopilot at the levels that were set in bipartisan fashion at the end of 2022, when Democrats had control of Congress, but the two parties came together to agree on budget terms.

All that could change in the new year when 1% cuts across the board to all departments would be triggered if Congress failed to agree to new budget terms and pass the traditional appropriation bills to fund the government by springtime.

The 1% automatic cuts, which would take hold in April, are despised by all sides -- Republicans say they are not enough; Democrats say they are too steep and many lawmakers prefer to boost defense funds. But they are part of the debt deal McCarthy and Biden struck earlier this year. The idea was to push Congress to do better.

The legislation also extends farm bill programs through September, the end of the current fiscal year. That addition was an important win for some farm-state lawmakers. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., for example, warned that without the extension, milk prices would have soared and hurt producers in his home state.

"The farm bill extension was the biggest sweetener for me," Pocan said.

Arkansas' Republican representatives, Rick Crawford, French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack all voted for Johnson's proposal.

Information for this article was contributed by Stephen Groves, Lisa Mascaro, Kevin Freking, Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press and by Catie Edmondson of The New York Times.

  photo  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., meets with reporters before speaking to a massive rally in support of Israel, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
 
 
  photo  FILE - Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Nov. 2, 2023. The last time Congress tried to fund the government to prevent a federal shutdown, it cost House Speaker Kevin McCarthy his job. This time, Johnson appears on track for a better outcome. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
 
 
  photo  Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., meets with reporters ahead of a crucial vote on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at its current levels, a measure not heartily supported by the hard right wing of his party, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
 
 


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