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House Democrats Show Tentative Support for US House Speaker’s Plan to Prevent Shutdown

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson’s proposal to avoid a government shutdown has gained some support from top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, as House Republicans express opposition. Schumer’s backing is crucial for the measure to pass and prevent a shutdown from starting on Saturday. He has expressed satisfaction that Johnson’s plan does not include significant spending cuts but has not fully endorsed the idea.

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Before the bill can move to the Senate, it must first clear the House, where at least seven Republican colleagues of Johnson have shown resistance. Representative Chip Roy, a prominent hardliner, criticized the proposal for its lack of spending cuts and conservative policies, as well as its extension of food assistance for impoverished families. Without changes, Roy intends to oppose efforts to bring the bill to the floor.

Top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries has stated that he is carefully evaluating Johnson’s proposal. Despite its unconventional structure, which sets different funding deadlines for different parts of the government, Johnson’s bill avoids spending cuts, policy provisions, or any other conditions. This type of clean bill contributed to the removal of his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, by the more conservative wing of the party.

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The proposal requires approval from the Democratic-majority Senate and President Joe Biden’s signature by midnight on Friday in order to prevent disruptions to pay for four million federal workers and the closure of national parks, among other consequences.

Johnson’s plan appears to target two opposing Republican factions: hardliners who advocate for different funding deadlines for various federal agencies and moderates who want a clean bill without spending cuts or conservative policy riders. Johnson’s bill would extend funding for specific programs until Jan. 19, with funding for defense and other federal operations expiring on Feb. 2. The bill aims to pressure the House and Senate to agree on spending bills for fiscal 2024 by their designated dates. Johnson has cautioned that House Republicans will introduce a full-year continuing resolution for 2024 if an agreement on full-year spending cannot be reached.

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However, the White House and both parties have criticized the approach, although it does offer a potential path forward for Congress. The decision to assign defense spending to a later date relieved concerns from Democrats who feared that Republicans would prioritize defense spending and allow other programs to shut down.

House Republicans aim to vote on the measure on Tuesday, but it remains uncertain whether they can secure the 217 votes needed to pass it without Democratic support. Failure to meet this benchmark previously led to the removal of Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy. Nonetheless, some House Republicans believe Johnson deserves more time to garner support.

The intense infighting among Republicans this year, including the party’s rejection of three experienced nominees for House speaker, coincides with declining federal revenues and rising costs. Lawmakers are at odds over discretionary spending for fiscal 2024, with Democrats and many Republicans supporting the initially agreed $1.59 trillion level, while hardliners advocate for a figure $120 billion lower. Recent signals of willingness to compromise suggest a possible resolution.

However, this political clash primarily concerns a small portion of the overall U.S. budget, which also encompasses mandatory expenditures for Social Security and Medicare. In fiscal 2023, total U.S. spending exceeded $6.1 trillion.

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