Congress has no clear plan to avoid a government shutdown in a week: NPR

President Mike Johnson faces a deadline to avoid a possible government shutdown on November 17. With divisions within his own party, he cannot afford to lose many votes if he pursues a partisan stopgap proposal.

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President Mike Johnson faces a deadline to avoid a possible government shutdown on November 17. With divisions within his own party, he cannot afford to lose many votes if he pursues a partisan stopgap proposal.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Speaker Mike Johnson is quickly learning that while he may have received unanimous support for taking the gavel, stark divisions remain among House Republicans over the spending bills.

Twice this week, Johnson, R-La., was forced to pull federal budget bills from the floor after it became clear that Republican opposition meant they would not pass.

Now, there are just seven days left before the federal government’s scheduled end-of-day shutdown on Nov. 17, insufficient time to pass the full set of annual budget bills.

Despite the time crunch, President Johnson has not announced details of his plan for a stopgap funding measure, which would temporarily extend government funding to allow lawmakers to resolve their disagreements over the full budget.

GOP splits to derail spending bills

The Transportation and Housing funding bill, which leaders pulled from the floor Tuesday night, ran into trouble when a group of Northeastern Republicans opposed the bill’s funding cuts to Amtrak. Conservatives insisted they remain in the bill.

Johnson withdrew the Financial Services and General Government funding measure on Thursday, after moderate members of his conference opposed a provision in the bill that would have overturned Washington, D.C.’s abortion law.

One of the members who opposed the bill, Rep. John Duarte of California, noted that Tuesday’s election results in several states showed voters’ rejection of Republican efforts to restrict abortion rights.

“The American people are telling us very clearly that they do not want Washington, DC to interfere with their right to abortion,” Duarte said. “That’s clear and we’re trying to make sure we can deliver on that.”

The Financial Services bill also faced opposition over funding for a new FBI headquarters, which the administration announced this week would be built in the Maryland suburbs of D.C.

After a proposed amendment to ban any funding for the building failed, conservatives, including Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, threatened to vote against final passage of the bill.

“We’ve been pretty clear with the American people. We don’t believe the FBI should get a new headquarters, plain and simple,” Jordan said.

The conservative objections upset more moderate members of the Republican conference.

“For those who are angry about this, holy shit, it pisses me off,” Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon said.

“Don’t blame the entire FBI for the behavior of the director and the attorney general,” Bacon said, referring to conservative frustration over the agency’s investigation into former President Trump.

Johnson has not announced his interim spending plan

As the party tries to resolve its biggest budget disagreements, Johnson is trying to craft a short-term spending plan – known as a continuing resolution – to keep the federal government open beyond Nov. 17 and buy time for lawmakers to negotiate. .

He’s considering a couple of options: One would fund federal agencies through January. The other, called the “ladder” CR or “two-step” spending bill, would extend government funding for some government agencies to one date, and separate others and set a different date for interim funding for them. The idea of ​​the ladder continuity resolution is to try to force the Senate to negotiate some of the most contentious spending bills.

Some lawmakers worry that the ladder approach sets rolling timelines for future potential partial government shutdowns.

Lawmakers expect Johnson to release a decision and bill on Friday, and expect the House to vote on the measure on Tuesday, just three days before the deadline to avoid a shutdown.

However, stopgap measures are also a contentious issue among House Republicans, and that friction has made it difficult for Johnson to craft a proposal.

In October, shortly after then-President Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., relied on Democratic votes to pass a short-term funding bill, he was ousted by a small group of angry House Republicans. with the plan.

But there are no signs that President Johnson’s job is at risk at this time. Tennessee Republican Tim Burchett, who voted to impeach McCarthy, told reporters that there is no discussion about continuing the resolution that he believes would lead to a push to impeach him.

“Many things accumulated until [firing McCarthy]”Burchett said.

Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, who also voted to recall the last speaker, said negotiations with the speaker over “fire or sweeteners” that could be added to the plan would calm skeptical members.

Biggs said his proposal would push lawmakers to return to their preferred budget process: “twelve single-issue bills that [Congress is] “The law requires that it be done in the first six months of the year.”

Also being discussed is the possibility of adding a bipartisan proposal to create a national debt commission to the short-term spending bill.

But getting as many Republicans as possible on board will be essential for Johnson, who only has a razor-thin majority in the chamber, if he wants to add any policy measures to the bill.

The House’s top Democrat, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, has said his party will only support a so-called “clean” continuing resolution: a bill that expands government funding at current levels without additional provisions.

Bacon said he didn’t think the ladder CR was “the smartest move,” but said he would support it because he doesn’t want a shutdown. Other Republican members of the appropriations committee expressed reservations but deferred the decision to Johnson.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Dan Meuser suggested that some members of the GOP are trying to use the annual spending bills to achieve every political goal.

He pointed out a saying, “the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time” and said, “here are some who want to take giant steps and correct everything in one bill.” He agrees with reforming the FBI but not with defunding it, and says it’s better to aim to make changes more gradually.

“A lot of those who are standing in the way of these appropriations bills being passed are introducing, you know, tiny or small pieces that are just blowing up the whole thing.”

Slow progress in the Senate

In the upper house, lawmakers are trying to present an alternative interim proposal. Due to Senate rules, any plan will require sixty votes to pass, requiring bipartisan support.

Senators have remained largely silent as they wait for House Republicans to unveil a proposal. In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the only way forward was through bipartisan cooperation.

“I implore President Johnson and our House Republican colleagues to learn from the fiasco of a month ago,” Schumer said. “Poison pills from the far right that have no support from Democrats will only make a shutdown more likely.”

Schumer began the process that would allow the Senate to move on to a spending bill sometime next week, if it has one ready for floor consideration.

But there are also obstacles in the Senate.

Beyond reaching agreement on a short-term bill to avoid a shutdown, both chambers are still grappling with a request for emergency aid for Israel, Ukraine and the border.

After the House opted to pass a bill with only money for Israel along with cuts to the IRS that were not up-front in the Senate, leaders there are working to cobble together a broader national security funding package. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell backs the administration’s request for money for Ukraine but insists Democrats must back some policy changes to current immigration laws.

A bipartisan group of senators is working to come up with something both parties can agree on, but years of efforts to focus on immigration reforms have produced no progress.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford is in the talks but declined to discuss the substance of what’s on the table. He said it will take more than more money, noting that the White House has indicated the need to change the current system.

“What’s really needed is policy changes. And they’re making the same statement from the administration side saying that money is not going to fix what’s happening at the border. It doesn’t matter how much money is put into it. Policy” It’s bad on the border. We have to fix the legal aspects of how they handle it. And then the administration really has to enforce that law.”

Lankford said the national security package does not have to be passed at the same time as the bill to avoid a shutdown.

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