Dems ‘Carefully Evaluating’ Speaker Johnson’s CR Plan
WASHINGTON — With the “laddered” continuing resolution proposed by House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., set to go before the House Rules Committee in a matter of hours, Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House are taking a wait-and-see approach to what may emerge at the end of the hearing.
As previously reported by The Well News, Johnson on Saturday advanced a two-step short-term continuing resolution that would keep federal departments and agencies funded into early next year and stave off a partial government shutdown later this week.
The current spending plan — which cost former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., his job, expires at midnight Friday, and many government operations will come to a grinding halt if House Republicans cannot agree on a plan that also gets approval from President Biden and the Democratic Senate.
Johnson’s plan would not impose the sharp spending cuts sought by members of the House Freedom Caucus and other fiscal conservatives in his conference, nor does it include tough new anti-immigration measures at the southern U.S. border, another must to appease GOP hard liners.
Johnson’s proposal is framed as a two-tier solution to the current time-crunch Congress is facing before the end of the year.
It would extend government funding through Jan. 19 for the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Veterans Affairs and Energy and several other federal agencies.
At the same time, funding for the Labor and Justice Departments would be extended through Feb. 2 so that the conference can work through marked differences on those two spending plans.
The bill also extends the authorization of programs and authorities in the farm bill until Sept. 30, 2024, the end of the fiscal year — effectively extending all programs included in the bill that passed in 2018.
It does not include funding for either Israel or Ukraine.
Asked about the plan at the White House on Monday, President Joe Biden said he understood Johnson has “a new proposal that’s being negotiated with other leaders in the House.”
“I don’t know what the outcome will be … we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Asked if he would veto a so-called two-part continuing resolution, Biden said he wasn’t going to prejudge whether he’ll sign it or not.
“Let’s wait and see what they come up with,” he said.
For his part, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was far less circumspect about his feelings about Johnson’s plan to avoid a government shutdown.
While saying the plan is “far from perfect,” he allowed that he was pleased that a “clean” measure was put forward to fund the government for the next two months.
“For now, I am pleased that Speaker Johnson seems to be moving in our direction by advancing a CR that doesn’t include the highly partisan cuts that Democrats have warned against,” Schumer said from the floor of the chamber today.
“The speaker’s proposal is far from perfect, but the most important thing is that it refrains from making steep cuts,” he said.
Schumer noted that Johnson will need support from across the aisle in order to advance the stopgap plan, and added that the avenue to do that is avoiding letting the more extreme elements of the GOP conference add “poison pills” and deep budgetary cuts to the measure as it advances.
“The next few days will tell all in the House and I hope the speaker does not buckle to the loud voices on his hard right flank,” Schumer said. “I hope that Speaker Johnson realizes that he will need support from Democrats in both chambers if he wants to avoid causing a shutdown.”
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., meanwhile, struck a measured tone similar to the president’s in a letter he sent to his conference ahead of the Rules Committee hearing.
“Throughout the chaotic congressional session unleashed by the Republican Conference, House Democrats have made clear that any acceptable continuing resolution must fund the government at the current fiscal year 2023 spending levels as we work to complete the appropriations process under regular order,” Jeffries wrote.
“Second, we have articulated that we will not accept any extreme right-wing policy provisions in connection with funding the government,” he said.
“Third, House Democrats have expressed concern with altering the appropriations process through a so-called laddered continuing resolution that has multiple expiration dates over a period of several months,” he added.
With that as context, Jeffries said Democratic House leaders “are carefully evaluating the proposal set forth by Republican leadership and discussing it with members.”
“While House Republicans have abandoned a laddered funding approach with multiple expiration dates, we remain concerned with the bifurcation of the continuing resolution in January and February 2024,” he continued.
“In addition, the failure of House Republicans to address the national security and domestic supplemental funding priorities of the American people is also troublesome,” he said.
He concluded by saying House Democrats are focused on keeping the government open while urging their Republican colleagues to work together in a bipartisan manner to lower costs, grow the middle class and protect our national security.
“We will proceed this week through the lens of making progress for everyday Americans by continuing to put people over politics,” Jeffries said.