Mike Johnson's Options for a Shutdown Showdown

Mike Johnson's Options for a Shutdown Showdown

Jack Gruber/USA Today

The November 17 deadline to avoid a government shutdown is now just 12 days away but House Republicans may not take up a stopgap spending bill this week.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, in his new job for less than two weeks, is reportedly set to meet with the House Republican Conference Tuesday and wants to discuss a strategy for the funding deadline with his members over the coming days.

Johnson has suggested a short-term spending bill, called a continuing resolution or CR, that would keep government agencies running until mid-January. He could propose a bill that’s “clean” or one that imposes spending cuts or other conditions — but he has also floated the possibility of a “laddered CR” that would fund different agencies for varying lengths of time, which might provide leverage for lawmakers to pass single-subject annual spending bills or might set the stage for a chaotic series of showdowns and possible partial shutdowns.

Will House Republicans agree to a stopgap? Will they look to set a new deadline in January or April or try to ladder a series of spending extensions? Will they demand steep spending cuts or other concessions that make it harder to reach a deal with the Senate? The list of questions remains long even as the days draw short.

Johnson’s actions as speaker so far suggest that he’s likely to continue to favor a hardline approach that appeals to the most conservative members of his party — and seeks to secure an advantage in negotiations with Democrats. In the end, though, any funding bill will have to get through the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden, limiting Johnson’s leverage.

Still working on long-term spending bills: As the deadline approaches, Johnson has committed to passing the five remaining annual spending bills as quickly as possible, but Republicans last week were forced to punt on the appropriations package covering the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. “About a dozen House Republicans, including several New Yorkers, have concerns with cuts to Amtrak included in the bill,” The Washington Post says, citing two Republican aides.

The House will try to pass that bill again this week along with one covering financial services and general government appropriations. That would leave three final appropriations bills to tackle — likely the three hardest to pass, including the Commerce, Justice, Science bill, which would cut FBI funding; the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education package, which also seeks to slash spending; and Agriculture, which has already failed once before.

The bottom line: Johnson has lots of decisions to make and the deadline is drawing near.