New Speaker, Same Problems for House GOP on Spending Bills

New Speaker, Same Problems for House GOP on Spending Bills

Reuters/Sarah Silbiger

House Republicans may have a new speaker, but they’re running into the same old problems when it comes to passing spending bills.

With the threat of a government shutdown looming just eight days away, House Republicans have essentially frittered away another week, struggling to pass more of their own appropriations bills even as they failed to make any real progress toward a short-term measure to keep agencies open past the November 17 deadline.

Speaker Mike Johnson and House GOP leaders had to abruptly pull a planned floor vote on their financial services spending bill, which funds the Treasury and IRS among other things, when it became clear that they didn’t have the votes to pass it. The bill faced opposition from both members of the House Freedom Caucus and moderates. The conservatives were reportedly upset that some amendments got voted down, including a measure to defund a new FBI headquarters building, while party moderates objected to a provision related to abortion access in Washington, D.C.

It was the second time this week that Republicans were forced to punt on a planned appropriations vote. They pulled their Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending package on Tuesday after some Northeastern Republicans balked over cuts to Amtrak funding.

House Republicans have passed seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills but are struggling to come together over the final five.

At the same time, Johnson has yet to lay out his strategy for passing a stopgap funding bill needed to avoid a shutdown in just over a week. The speaker is considering a short-term funding extension that could potentially be paired with some Republican policy objectives, but he may also still opt for a “laddered” continuing resolution, an idea favored by the Freedom Caucus. A “laddered” CR would extend funding for federal agencies in two groups, setting two separate new deadlines. Democrats have rejected that approach — “That’s the craziest, stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray said Thursday — and many Republicans have also derided it as overly complicated.

As he weighs his decision, Johnson is looking to balance the conflicting demands and desires of the various GOP factions. Conservative members of his conference have indicated they’ll allow him some leeway in this process — but it may not be much. “I think there’s a honeymoon period here. I’m not sure how long it lasts, maybe 30 days,” said Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, according to CNN. “With what’s going on the floor today, I think that indicates the honeymoon might be shorter than we thought. And every time the CR expires, the speaker is putting his head in the lion’s mouth.”

The bottom line: It’s more of the same for House Republicans. This has been another rough and unproductive week for them as they try to work out their intraparty differences. Republican leaders have little time left to release bill text for their stopgap spending bill if Congress is to act in time to avoid a shutdown.

Keep in mind, the House GOP spending bills will go nowhere in the Senate, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries insists that Democrats will only accept a clean continuing resolution. Any spending bills will have to have bipartisan support to pass both the House and Senate and get to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The House has adjourned until Monday. The government could shut down five days later.