Johnson’s Plan to Avoid Shutdown Already on Life Support

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s plan to avoid a partial government shutdown beginning on Saturday at 12:01 AM is already getting pushback from Republicans. Democrats don’t like it much either.

Johnson tried to split the difference between his right flank and the rest of his caucus by proposing a two-tiered approach to temporarily funding the government. He’s asking for two separate funding bills. The first would fund some of the government through January 19 and would include funding for military construction, Veterans Affairs, transportation, housing, and the Energy Department. These are the pork barrel agencies of government, and this bill is expected to pass with ease.

It’s the second bill, which would fund the rest of the government through February 2, that’s the problem.


Johnson has told members he plans to bring the plan up for a floor vote on Tuesday, but its chances already seem bleak. The speaker said on the call Saturday that he expected some Republicans to vote against it and that they would need some Democratic backing, but the minority party has already signaled that they would only support a so-called “clean” stopgap bill, not the two-tiered system conservatives had favored.

Privately, Democrats said Saturday that they still don’t favor Johnson’s two-date approach — in part because it may not avoid a one percent cut that could kick in early next year under the terms of a debt deal reached over the summer. Officially, though, Democratic leaders were still reviewing the plan.

“House Republicans need to stop wasting time on their own political divisions, do their jobs, and work in a bipartisan way to prevent a shutdown,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

The Democrats have trapped Republicans in their own doom loop. No matter what plan to fund the government is put forward, enough Republicans will reject it to either kill the plan outright or force Speaker Johnson to beg for Democratic votes.

And if Johnson does what the right wing wants and cuts the budget by a ludicrous amount, Democrats will reject it–and it’s not even clear that enough Republicans would support it anyway.

It should be noted that nowhere in Johnson’s plan is there funding for Ukraine or Israel. This approach will almost certainly bury the bills when they hit the president’s desk. 

“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to place House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories. The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess. Separating out the CR from the supplemental funding debates places our conference in the best position to fight for fiscal responsibility, oversight over Ukraine aid, and meaningful policy changes at our Southern border,” Johnson said.

Rep. Chip Roy speaks for many in the Freedom Caucus who are looking at Johnson’s plan with a jaundiced eye.

Republicans in the House and the Senate are going to have to accept the fact that if the government is going to function at any level of spending, at least some Democrats are going to have to support the Republican plan. 

It’s not a “betrayal” to recognize reality. 


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