By Tom Ozimek
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has unveiled a unique “laddered” stopgap funding plan to avert the looming government shutdown.
Mr. Johnson’s proposed measure is in the form of a two-step continuing resolution that would fund some parts of the federal government until Jan. 19 and then continue funding others until Feb. 2.
The plan is unusual in that lawmakers usually extend funding for all programs until a certain date.
Mr. Johnson opted for this arrangement in order to avoid presenting a single, massive spending bill packed with various spending agendas, which would otherwise likely face opposition from those of his fellow Republicans who are laser-focused on advocating for fiscal restraint.
“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to place House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement.
“The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess,” he continued.
Under Mr. Johnson’s plan, funding for some spending bills (veterans programs, as well as bills dealing with transportation, housing, agriculture, and energy) would be extended until Jan. 19.
Funding for others (including defense, the State Department, and Homeland Security) would be extended until Feb. 2.
Notably, Mr. Johnson’s proposal does not include funding requested by President Joe Biden for Israel, Ukraine, and for U.S. border security. He explained that this would allow for more discussion on vexing issues around which there are sharp differences among lawmakers, such as more aid to Ukraine or how best to bolster border security.
“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,” Mr. Johnson said.
“With our debt spiraling out of control, the rising costs of ‘Bidenomics’ hurting families, and our Southern border wide open, House Republicans must position ourselves best to fight for the American people,” he added.
The White House has reacted critically to Mr. Johnson’s proposal, calling it “unserious.”
“This proposal is just a recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns—full stop,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“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,” she added.
Last year’s $1.7 trillion omnibus funding bill kept the government running until the end of fiscal year 2023, which ended on Sept. 30.
In order to avert a government shutdown, Congress passed a 47-day continuing resolution ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline, but then House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) agreed to a series of demands to placate some GOP hardliners who opposed the stopgap measure. Among Mr. McCarthy’s concession was an agreement for a rules change that allowed any single lawmaker to file a motion to vacate the position of Speaker.
Ultimately, thanks in part to the rule change, Mr. McCarthy lost the gavel, paving the way for the election of Mr. Johnson.
One of the GOP hardliners, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, expressed opposition to Mr. Johnson’s stopgap funding proposal.
“My opposition to the clean CR just announced by the Speaker to the @HouseGOP cannot be overstated,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) in a post on X. “Funding Pelosi level spending & policies for 75 days—for future ‘promises,'” he wrote.
Ahead of the prior Sept. 30 deadline for a government shutdown, some members of the House Freedom Caucus said that voters elected a GOP majority in the House to rein in out-of-control government spending and so Republicans should be prepared to use every tool available to push for spending cuts.
“We should not fear a government shutdown,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) said at a news conference at the end of July.
“Most of the American people won’t even miss [it] if the government is shut down temporarily.”
Some House Republicans disagreed, with Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) saying it’s an oversimplification to say most Americans wouldn’t feel the effects of a shutdown, while adding that Republicans would end up taking the blame for it.
“We always get blamed for it, no matter what,” Mr. Simpson said at the time. “So it’s bad policy, it’s bad politics.”
Daniel Lacalle, chief economist at hedge fund Tressis wrote in a recent op-ed for The Epoch Times that a government shutdown isn’t the problem—public debt is.
“The entire debate is created around the monumental crisis that a shutdown would generate instead of focusing on the cause: excessive deficit spending and soaring public debt,” he wrote.
“The United States’ rising debt and deficit irresponsibility mean more taxes, less growth, and more inflation in the future,” he continued.
“Government debt isn’t a gift of reserves for the private sector; it’s a burden of economic problems for future generations. Sound money can come only from fiscal responsibility,” he wrote.
“Currently, we have none.”