Speaker Mike Johnson is leaning into the demands of his right flank, planning to head off a Friday government shutdown deadline with a risky two-tiered spending idea.
Yet it is already privately running into a wall of resistance among many of those same conservatives, who had urged their new speaker to seek steep cuts in his first negotiation with Democrats. Instead, the bill extends current funding levels.
The one big difference in Johnson's plan is that the proposal tees up two different funding deadlines for different parts of the government: one on Jan. 19 and the other on Feb. 2. The strategy ramps up the chances of a shutdown, unless he can get Democrats to buy into the idea. Even some House Republicans have been publicly skeptical of the two-deadline system, which lawmakers have referred to as a “laddered” continuing resolution.
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.
Privately, House Democrats said Saturday that they still don't favor Johnson's two-date approach — in part because it may not avoid a 1 percent cut that could kick in early next year under the terms of a debt deal reached over the summer. Officially, though, they were still reviewing the plan. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, were careful to leave the door open to potentially supporting the GOP bill, with a leadership aide telling POLITICO that "it’s a good thing the Speaker didn’t include unnecessary cuts and kept defense funding with the second group of programs."
The Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the spending plan Monday, eventually deciding whether it can come to the House floor. One conservative on that panel, House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) already announced on X he would oppose the legislation, saying it amounted to a "clean CR."
"My opposition to the clean CR just announced by the Speaker ... cannot be overstated. Funding Pelosi level spending & policies for 75 days — for future 'promises,'" he wrote.
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) also posted on X that they would vote against the spending package. Johnson can only afford to lose four GOP votes if all Democrats oppose it, assuming full attendance.
Some Republicans close to leadership still believe the plan could work, if it can get both Freedom Caucus members and some Democrats. But Johnson told the House GOP that if this package fails to pass the chamber, he plans to bring a full-year stopgap spending bill to the floor. That package would include blanket cuts to non-defense spending, he said, according to two Republicans on the call.
The proposed spending bill doesn't include any additional money for Israel, Ukraine or the border, with Johnson saying in a statement that those spending measures needed separate consideration.
“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.
The White House called the plan "just a recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns."
"House Republicans are wasting precious time with an unserious proposal that has been panned by members of both parties," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote in a statement.
Under Johnson's spending plan, Agriculture, Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development would be funded until Jan. 19. The other eight funding bills, which include some of the biggest spending headaches like a fight over the FBI, will run until the Feb. 2 deadline.
It would also officially extend the farm bill through September 2024, staving off a year-end cliff for key farm programs and several smaller food aid efforts, as well as extending other less controversial health programs. Additionally, the plan includes a provision, requested by the White House, that would give the Education Department more flexibility to pay student loan companies that are managing the resumption of student loan payments this fall for tens of millions of Americans.
Michael Stratford and Meredith Lee Hill contributed to this report.