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Speaker Johnson Introduces Two-Step Plan to Fund Government Before Deadline

Speaker Mike Johnson has chosen to run with a two-step, “laddered” stopgap bill to keep the government open with less than a week before federal funding expires.

The stopgap bill pitched by Mr. Johnson to members on a GOP conference call Saturday tees up a fight against the Democrat-led Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Charles S. Schumer has decried the idea. Even Senate Republicans have been vexed by the proposal, calling it overly complicated. 

A source familiar with the members-only call confirmed to newsfeedworld that the bill would set Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 of next year as the target dates to wrap up work on spending bills.

Mr. Johnson, Louisiana Republican, is eyeing the first tranche of spending bills to include the ag, military construction and VA, energy and water, transportation legislation. The plan would see Congress moving to get those bills into conference with the Senate, where lawmakers will compromise on a final version of the measures that will head to President Biden’s desk.

“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 on X. “The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess.”

The House has advanced all but one of the spending bills included in the first deadline. Mr. Johnson punted the transportation spending legislation because he did not have the votes to pass it last week. 

Typically, Congress stuffs each of the 12 spending bills that fund the government into a massive omnibus bill. But House Republicans have vowed to change that process, promising to advance spending bills one-by-one. 

The announcement comes with just six days for Congress to avoid another shutdown scenario. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill as early as Tuesday of this week.  

While the bill successfully keeps lawmakers off the Hill during the holiday season — a major issue for many conservatives who were on the fence on whether to support a stopgap  — Mr. Johnson is still entering into the familiar territory that sank his predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. 

That is because the bill is relatively “clean,” meaning there are no spending cuts tacked on.

Holdout lawmakers who voted against Mr. McCarthy’s previous proposals, including an ultra-conservative stopgap bill that included a wishlist of GOP policies from the House’s Secure the Border Act, said that they could get behind a laddered approach with conditions. 

One of those would be spending cuts similar to the ones found in the border security-focused stopgap bill that failed. 

Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said that the bill would continue funding the government at levels agreed upon when Democrats previously controlled the House. 

“It’s 100% clean,” said Mr. Roy of Texas. “And I 100% oppose.”

But putting a relatively clean stopgap bill on the floor might not be the death knell for Mr. Johnson’s young speakership. Conservatives have said that they are willing to give the new top Republican more leeway because of time constraints, and because they trust him more than Mr. McCarthy. 

Mr. Johnson promised that if his laddered bill doesn’t work, lawmakers can expect a yearlong stopgap bill. The also does not include Israel aid, which was previously pitched as a way to attract the recalcitrant Senate and House Democrats, who by-and-large are expected to reject the bill. 

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat, has called a multi-step bill a “joke,” saying that pursuing a laddered approach is driving the government closer to a shutdown. 

The Senate is also eying a way to avoid a laddered option — Mr. Schumer began the process of advancing a vehicle for a Senate stopgap, a move that threatens to jam the House, last week. 

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