President Mike Johnson was forced Tuesday to rely on Democratic votes as the House passed legislation to continue federal funding through early 2024, after many Republicans opposed his plan to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the week.
Nearly all Democrats and a majority of Republicans overcame opposition from Republican Party conservatives to approve the bill under special expedited procedures that required a supermajority. That approach, crafted by Mr. Johnson in his first weeks as president, amounted to a bet that a significant number of Democrats would rally to help pass a package that Mr. Johnson’s own members were not. not willing to support.
The vote was 336 to 95, easily crossing the two-thirds threshold required for passage. Ultimately, 209 Democrats and 127 Republicans joined to pass the bill. Ninety-three Republicans opposed it, as did two Democrats.
The final tally clearly reflects a dynamic that dogged both Mr. Johnson and his predecessor, Speaker Kevin McCarthy: The House Republican Party lacks the political will to keep the government funded, forcing its leaders, operating with only a tiny majority, to rely on Democratic votes. to do so or face the political backlash of a shutdown.
The Senate is expected to pass the bill and send it to President Biden’s desk within days, and a White House official said Mr. Biden would sign it. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, told reporters he wanted the Senate to vote on the bill “as soon as possible.”
Despite criticism of the Johnson plan from the White House when it was released last weekend, Mr. Schumer said he had consulted with the administration and “we both agreed, the White House and I, that if this can avoid a shutdown, that would be a good thing.
Approval of the bill means government services will continue uninterrupted through the holiday season until early next year, avoiding another self-imposed crisis just before Thanksgiving.
But that only gives Congress a few more months before lawmakers find themselves in the same situation again. And the deep divisions between Republicans over the level of public spending will not be easy to resolve in the weeks to come.
The legislation would fund federal agencies at current spending levels with two different expiration dates: Jan. 19 for one set of government programs and Feb. 2 for another set. That timeline would give lawmakers more time to try to finalize the various annual spending bills, as many conservatives have demanded. The bill did not provide for any military aid to Israel and Ukraine.
Mr. Johnson hailed the legislation as breaking with an increasingly common practice in Washington of funding the government with a huge spending bill, known as an omnibus, a routine that conservatives have long ridiculed .
“We’re not going to have a massive omnibus spending bill right before Christmas,” Mr. Johnson said. “This is a gift to the American people. Because that is not a way to legislate. This is not good management.
In the days leading up to this week’s funding deadline, some hard-liners at Mr. Johnson’s conference suggested that Republicans should let the government shut down and use that as leverage to try to cut back spending levels.
It was an argument Mr. Johnson could have accepted as a rank-and-file member. In September, he was among a significant minority of Republicans who opposed the interim spending bill advanced by Mr. McCarthy, which ultimately led to his ouster.
But in his first major test as president, a job he won just three weeks ago, Mr Johnson moved quickly to bring the government back from the brink of shutdown, using the same formula that caused the downfall of his predecessor.
“I want to cut spending now and I would like to insert political elements” into the bill, he said. “But when you have a three-vote majority – as is the case now – we don’t have the votes. So what we need to do is avoid a government shutdown. »
Democrats had previously rejected the idea of a government funding bill that would stagger funding for different agencies. But they ultimately supported the bill in the interest of avoiding a painful shutdown. They said they were relieved that Mr. Johnson had proposed a spending plan that did not cut funding for federal programs or condition it on new policy measures.
“We have always made clear that a government shutdown would harm the economy, our national security and ordinary Americans during a very fragile time and must be avoided,” the top Democrats wrote in a statement before the vote, led by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York. , the minority leader.
Just six weeks ago, Mr McCarthy turned to the same coalition to avoid a shutdown and extend the funding deadline until November 17. It was the final straw for far-right Republicans who had distrusted and tormented Mr. McCarthy since his election. his position, and they ousted him for it.
Mr. Johnson inherited the same spending dilemmas as Mr. McCarthy, a California Republican. Far-right Republicans have insisted on burdening individual spending bills intended to fund the government with drastic budget cuts and conservative policies that mainstream, politically vulnerable Republicans have refused to support.
At the same time, some conservatives have flatly refused to support any sort of interim spending measures, including Mr. McCarthy’s. advanced to September this included drastic cuts to government programs – in many cases up to 29 percent.
On Tuesday, some of the radical conservatives who moved to oust Mr. McCarthy expressed anger at Mr. Johnson. The House Freedom Caucus, a group of about three dozen far-right lawmakers, announced before the vote that it would oppose the measure.
“It contains no spending cuts, no border security, and no meaningful victories for the American people,” the group wrote in a statement. “Republicans must stop negotiating against themselves, for fear of what the Senate might do with the ‘turn today and we will fight tomorrow’ promise.
But in a sign that there was little appetite to impeach Mr. Johnson because he was counting on Democrats to pass the legislation, as they did for Mr. McCarthy, the lawmakers continued: “Even if we remain Committed to working with President Johnson, we need bold changes. .”
Representative Chip Roy of Texas, an influential conservative, said some of his colleagues believed Mr. Johnson’s promise that he would not introduce another stopgap bill to fund the government and that he was only doing so. because he had only become president a few weeks before.
“If you storm the beaches of Normandy and the commander falls and someone else takes over, you don’t say, ‘Oh, well, you’re getting a honeymoon period.’ “, declared Mr. Roy. “You need to pick it up and leave.” And so for me, it was a strategic failure. We shouldn’t do this. You should not exceed $400 billion in suspension of rules. And that’s what we’re going to do.
He continued: “We’re trying to give the speaker some grace, but today it’s a mistake, from the start.”
The report was provided by Carl Hulse, Kayla Guo, Luke Broadwater, Annie Karni And Robert Jimison.