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House passes Johnson’s bill to avert shutdown

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The House passed a short-term funding bill on Tuesday, moving to avert a government shutdown despite fierce opposition from conservatives.

Lawmakers voted 336-95 on the stopgap measure, with 127 Republicans joining with 209 Democrats to pass the legislation. It now goes to the Senate, which will need to pass it before Saturday to keep the government funded. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated he supports the measure.

The decision to lean on Democrats to help pass the bill comes just six weeks after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted for using the same tactic to avert an end-of-September shutdown.

But in the face of growing opposition from their right flank, House GOP leadership announced Monday night they would try to buck their hardline members and punt the spending fight into early next year.

“I’ve been in the job less than three weeks. I can’t turn an aircraft carrier overnight, but this was a very important first step to get us to the next stage, so that we can change how Washington works,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The House plan funds the government in two tranches — setting up a Jan. 19 deadline for part of the government, including the departments of Veterans Affairs and Transportation, and a Feb. 2 deadline for the rest, including the Pentagon.

It also helps avert a Senate attempt to jam through a year-end spending bill, a process loathed by most conservatives because it is typically loaded up with unrelated legislation and pet projects.

Johnson embraced his right flank’s idea of a two-tier funding strategy. But the new speaker quickly came under hardline conservative criticism, including from members of the House Freedom Caucus. The bill didn’t include spending cuts or other HFC policy priorities like attaching aid for Israel or border security legislation.

“I can in no way sell that to a single one of my constituents,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).

Johnson met with the group Monday night, but members indicated afterward that they didn’t expect the Louisianan to make changes to his spending plan. Moving the bill further to the right also risked sinking any Democratic support, and it’s far from certain it would even enable Johnson to unite his own conference.

“That is a brutal pill and I don’t know that I would want to be in that position as a new speaker,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.).

Democrats, meanwhile, initially balked at backing a two-step funding bill, arguing it was a gimmick that created two potential shutdown cliffs and drove Congress toward across-the-board cuts that will kick in next year.

But they’ve appeared increasingly open to the bill, in part because it doesn’t include spending cuts and ties Pentagon funding to the second funding deadline. Democrats worried that if Republicans tied that funding to the first deadline, they would never agree to pass the second tranche of bills.

“We have a potential government shutdown later this week. We also have members who have been here a long time, as have you, a number of weeks in a row dealing with this Republican chaos. And so, I think all of that is weighing on us and we want to make sure first and foremost, that the government gets funded,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).

House Democratic leadership, in a joint statement before the vote, said they had said any stopgap bill needs to extend current funding levels, avoid cuts and poison pill policy riders.

“The continuing resolution before the House today meets that criteria and we will support it,” they said.

On Monday, Schumer also punted his own stopgap spending bill, signaling he would take up Johnson’s plan if it could pass the House.

The bill is likely to garner some opposition in the Senate. And to meet the end-of-the-week deadline, Schumer will need buy-in from every senator to help speed up the process.

“The proposal before the House does to things Democrats have pushed for: It will avert a shutdown, and do so without making any terrible hard-right cuts that the MAGA right-wing demands. It also eliminates the poison pills that so many MAGA Congress members put in the bills,” Schumer said.

Nicholas Wu contributed.