House Republican leaders are moving to pass a two-step stopgap government funding bill under a fast-track process that will require support from Democrats, an attempt to work around GOP opposition that threatened to tank the bill on a procedural vote.
It is one of the first major decisions of Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) tenure — and the same move that helped trigger a motion to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). It is also sure to enrage the Republican conference’s right flank.
A scheduling notice from House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) sent late Monday night announced that the continuing resolution (CR) would be brought up Tuesday under suspension of the rules — a procedure that requires support from two-thirds of the House in order to pass and avoid a government shutdown after Friday.
Such a move avoids a procedural “rule” vote teeing up the bill, which typically passes as a party-line vote and serves as a test of party unity, regardless of whether members of the minority party vote for the underlying legislation. But some Republicans had threatened to vote against the rule out of frustration that the bill did not include spending cuts or key conservative policy reforms — which would have prevented a vote on final passage of the legislation.
In the House GOP’s slim majority, GOP leaders can afford to lose just three Republican votes on any party-line measure, assuming full attendance. Far more than that have signaled opposition to the CR.
Under the continuing resolution, part of government funding would run out Jan. 19, with the rest running out Feb. 2. Johnson has argued that the two-step plan is the best way to avert a massive omnibus funding package pushed by the Senate, and allows Congress more time to negotiate on fiscal 2024 funding.
On the other side of the aisle, Democratic leaders have not yet said whether they will support the bill, but have given signals that they could.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Monday, however, that Democrats had “zero intention to vote for the rule,” leaving Republican leadership the options of either trying to convince the GOP holdouts to support the rule or aim for wide cooperation from Democrats.
A “Dear Colleague” letter from Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) on Monday said they found the two-step proposal “troublesome” but did not fully oppose it and were “carefully evaluating” the bill.
While Democrats are skeptical of the two-step approach, there is little in the bill for them to oppose, even if it omits some provisions they wanted, such as aid to Ukraine and Israel.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said Monday that he was “pleased” Johnson was advancing a stopgap without spending cuts.
With the House GOP’s slim 221-213 majority, it will take dozens of Democrats — likely upward of 80 when accounting for GOP defections — to achieve the two-thirds threshold and pass the bill under suspension.
The tactic is already getting fierce pushback from hard-line conservatives.
“If my vote is ignored by the Speaker when he doesn’t need it, when he comes and he needs it, it may not be there,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said earlier Monday evening when asked about the prospects of GOP leaders moving to pass the bill under suspension. Roy was one of the Republican members who indicated he would vote against the rule on the stopgap.
McCarthy was ousted from his post in October right after he brought up a “clean” CR for passage with help from Democrats on the last government funding deadline day in September. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) made the motion to vacate McCarthy from the Speakership, and seven other Republicans joined with him and all Democrats to take away McCarthy’s gavel.
One senior House GOP aide took a swipe at the eight members who voted to oust McCarthy in part over the same situation.
“The Gaetz 8 wasted 3 weeks of floor time on appropriations, for what? To get a Speaker who works with Dems to continue Pelosi’s omnibus? Are they going to vacate Johnson too?” the senior GOP aide told The Hill.
Mike Lillis contributed.