Johnson Gets a Win on Government Funding Bill, With a Big Help From Democrats

Johnson Gets a Win on Government Funding Bill, With a Big Help From Democrats

The House on Tuesday passed a short-term funding bill that would keep the government open into early next year. The unconventional piece of legislation was pushed through the House by Speaker Mike Johnson despite significant opposition from many of his fellow conservative Republicans, as Democrats stepped in to rescue the continuing resolution and head off a potential government shutdown at the end of this week.

The bill arrived on the floor under rules that required a two-thirds majority to advance. The final vote was 336 to 95, easily clearing the requirement, with Democrats providing 209 of the ‘yes’ votes. Only 127 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, with 93 voting against, according to the preliminary tally. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

Johnson said that the slim majority held by Republicans forced him to offer a bipartisan bill that failed to meet the expectations of many within his party. “When you have a three-vote majority — as we do right now — we don’t have the votes,” he said. “So what we need to do is avoid the government shutdown.”

Here’s a rundown on key details:

* The bill is ‘clean’: The funding bill will maintain current spending levels and contains no amendments addressing thorny issues such as border policy and aid for Ukraine and Israel. That helped the bill advance by eliminating sources of friction for various House constituencies, but it also inspired the far-right House Freedom Caucus and other ultraconservative Republicans to reject the bill. “The House Freedom Caucus opposes the proposed 'clean' Continuing Resolution as it contains no spending reductions, no border security, and not a single meaningful win for the American People,” the group said in a statement.

At the same time, maintaining funding levels was necessary to win Democratic support. “The numbers seem to be pretty good to me," said Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts before the vote. “None of their bulls*** MAGA culture wars are in this bill, so when all is said and done, I'm inclined to probably vote for it.”

Democratic leaders and the White House also signaled their support for the bill. “The proposal before the House does two things Democrats pushed for,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “We all want to avoid a shutdown. I talked to the White House and both of us agree, the White House and myself, that if this can avoid a shutdown it’ll be a good thing.”

* The funding plan is ‘laddered’:  The bill funds some federal departments until January, while others get funding into February. Military construction, veterans’ affairs, transportation, housing and the Energy Department would be funded until January 19, and everything else would be funded until February 2. That means that while there are potentially two possible shutdown deadlines in early 2024, lawmakers will avoid a pre-holiday rush to pass a massive compromise spending bill, as has happened in the past.

“We are not going to have a massive omnibus spending bill right before Christmas,” Johnson said. “That is a gift to the American people. Because that is no way to legislate. It is not good stewardship.”

* House rules were suspended: Republicans on the House Rules Committee indicated that they would reject the bill, so Johnson used a procedure known as suspension of the rules to advance the bill to the House floor. The suspension of rules means that the bill could not be amended and required two-thirds rather than majority support – a threshold that by definition required a significant number of Democratic votes.

* A strange sense of déjà vu: Speaker Mike Johnson finds himself in much the same position as his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, who was forced out after he passed a clean funding bill with help from Democrats. But Johnson appears safe from retaliation from right-wingers, at least for now. “This is not grade school, where if you don't like the results of your kickball game, you take the ball with you and go home,” Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida told Axios.

* Democrats celebrate: Rep. Steny Hoyer, a long-time Democratic leader in the House, said the vote shows that Republicans need Democrats to get things done. “What we’ve seen is they cannot do rational policy without our votes,” he said. “We’re hoisted on the petard of a large number of nihilists in the Republican Party.”

* Plenty left to do: The slimmed-down bill will likely keep the doors open in the government for a few months, but it leaves many pressing questions unanswered. A brief list of the many issues Congress still needs to address soon includes aid for Ukraine, aid for Israel, aid for Taiwan, funding and policy at the southern border, FAA reauthorization and, eventually, bills providing government funding for the rest of the 2024 fiscal year.