Jeffries Says ‘Laddered CR’ to Keep Government Open Is Non-Starter
WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., did not mince words Thursday when it came to a House GOP plan to pass a so-called “laddered” continuing resolution to keep the government open past Nov. 17.
“Most members of the House Republican Conference have no idea what a ‘laddered’ CR means, what it represents, or how it would possibly be implemented, let alone the American people,” he told reporters at his weekly press briefing in the Capitol.
Calling the proposal, one of a handful House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is considering to keep the government operating at least into the holiday season, “an extreme right-wing policy joyride,” Jeffries said the idea is “reckless” and would “only crash and burn the federal government” if implemented.
“It’s a non-starter,” he said.
With just nine days to go before a possible partial government shutdown, the speaker appears to have conceded that his preferred way of funding the government — passing a dozen individual spending bills and hastily forcing the Senate into conference on them — is not going to happen.
In the past three days, the Republican-led House failed to pass either the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies funding bill or the Financial Services and General Government funding measure, both of which were loaded with partisan amendments.
That means Johnson must try to pass a continuing resolution without sparking the kind of revolt that led to the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., just over a month ago.
McCarthy’s sin in the eyes of the extreme right in his party was that he avoided a government shutdown and extended the federal funding deadline to Nov. 17 by relying on Democratic votes.
At the time, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., likened the move to signing one’s own “political death warrant,” and for McCarthy that turned out to be the case.
Johnson, doing all he can to avoid a repeat, has been spending a lot of time talking to his members about what they’d prefer to see a government funding plan look like.
He is said to be leaning toward the laddered or two-step approach to funding the government.
Under this plan, the House would pass a stopgap spending bill covering four of the fiscal year 2024 funding bills until December. The eight other spending bills would be extended until mid-January.
Another option would be to pass roughly the same bill, but have the funding deadlines extend into January and February.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus are said to favor the mixed stopgap approach, preferring the earlier deadlines, but others in the conference, especially those who believe they might be politically vulnerable in 2024, are unwilling to go along and vote on anything brimming with conservative policy riders.
“Clearly, the Democrats are not going to pay a single right-wing ransom demand,” Jeffries said. “We’ve not done it in the past. We’re not going to do it today. We’re not going to do it tomorrow. We’re not going to do it next week. It will never be done.
“The only way forward is to come together in bipartisan fashion in order to meet the needs of the American people. And if Republicans are unable to do that over the next few days, then the only approach is to pass a continuing resolution at the fiscal year 2023 levels, period, full stop,” he added.
Johnson’s decision on how to proceed should be known soon. The word on the Hill is he tentatively plans to bring a stopgap funding bill to the House floor on Tuesday.
To meet that deadline, he’ll have to post the resolution online by Saturday if he wants to be faithful to the 72-hour rule, which requires that legislation be made available to members of Congress and the public for at least 72 hours before the House begins debate on it.
But even if Johnson meets his own deadline and everything goes swimmingly, he still would fail in the eyes of at least one prominent Democrat.
“Considering these two partisan funding bills was a waste of time that we should have spent debating serious proposals to keep the government open,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, in a written statement on Thursday.
“House Republicans’ transportation funding bill would have cut Amtrak by 64% and raised commuting and housing costs for hardworking American families,” DeLauro said. “Their financial services bill would have inflicted serious damage on their communities while making sure billionaires and big corporations pay no taxes. It would have decimated the IRS, protecting tax cheats over honest, hardworking families.
“I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to stop driving us straight to a shutdown. Their partisan bills cannot pass. It is time for us to start negotiating full year bills as House and Senate Democrats and Republicans have done in the past,” she said.
Over on the other side of the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Thursday that he’s taken the first procedural step necessary for the Senate to pass its own temporary funding extension next week to avoid a government shutdown.
In the meantime, Schumer said, both parties are going to continue their ongoing discussions on a continuing resolution, which most observers believe would extend funding for the government through mid-December.
“I earnestly hope we can reach an agreement sooner rather than later,” he said.
Like Jeffries earlier on Thursday, Schumer also said the only way to fund the government is on a bipartisan basis.
“I implore Speaker Johnson and our House Republican colleagues to learn from the fiasco of a month ago,” Schumer said, referring to the chaos that paralyzed Congress for three weeks after the last continuing resolution was passed.
“Hard-right proposals, hard-right slash and cuts, hard-right poison pills that have zero support from Democrats will only make a shutdown more likely,” he said. “I hope they don’t go down that path in the week to come,” he said.