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Speaker Mike Johnson strikes a spending deal with Democrats, infuriates House GOP

By Mandy Donalds
|
February 29, 2024

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has brokered a spending agreement with Democrats, sparking discontent among some members of his own Republican caucus.

In a surprising turn of events, Johnson and congressional leaders have forged a spending deal to avert an imminent government shutdown. This resolution involves passing a short-term stopgap bill, a measure for which Johnson has previously expressed disdain. This move could potentially cause unrest among his party's hardline faction, as reported by the Daily Mail.

An unexpected compromise to delay shutdown deadlines

The agreed-upon deal effectively postpones two imminent government shutdown deadlines and moves them to later in March.

As lawmakers were on the brink of the first deadline, which was set for midnight on Friday, they hadn't fully finalized the sprawling appropriations bills. However, a breakthrough was achieved following President Joe Biden's meeting with the congressional "Big Four" at the White House on Tuesday.

Top lawmakers have concluded negotiations on several key appropriations bills, including those for Agriculture-FDA, Energy-Water, and several others. These bills are expected to be brought to vote next week, with a deadline set for March 8. The funding for another six agencies is set to expire on March 22, and these are anticipated to be bundled into a series of minibus bills upon which lawmakers will act.

Efforts to avert a partial government shutdown

A vote on a continuing resolution (CR) to extend these deadlines is expected to take place in the House on Thursday, followed by the Senate.

This CR aims to prevent a partial government shutdown, which loomed as a possibility if no deal was reached by the end of the day on Friday. The resolution of this issue also removes the risk of a shutdown during President Biden's upcoming State of the Union address.

The "Big Four" leaders, including Speaker Johnson, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have issued a joint statement announcing the deal. They emphasized the importance of bipartisan cooperation in funding the government and adhering to the Fiscal Responsibility Act's discretionary spending limits.

Challenges in selling the deal to conservative hardliners

Despite the agreement, selling another short-term deal to conservative hardliners within the GOP could prove challenging.

Some party conservatives have demanded that border security provisions be included in the spending legislation, a stipulation that could complicate its passage through both chambers of Congress.

Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), a prominent figure in the House Freedom Caucus, has criticized the deal as "more of the same" and is advocating for the inclusion of conservative priorities, particularly border security measures.

The Freedom Caucus had earlier suggested that Johnson should abandon appropriations talks altogether and opt for a full-year CR instead. This stance underscores the internal divisions within the GOP regarding the best approach to government funding and fiscal responsibility.

The contentious debate over spending cuts and fiscal responsibility

Among the provisions included in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, a deal negotiated between former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden, is a clause that mandates a 1% cut in all discretionary spending if Congress extends the CR beyond April 30.

This provision, known as "the Massie Rule," highlights the ongoing debate within Congress regarding fiscal discipline and government spending.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), another vocal critic within the GOP, had previously initiated a motion to vacate in a move designed to oust McCarthy from his position as speaker, citing dissatisfaction with McCarthy's decision to introduce a CR to extend government funding deadlines. Now, Johnson faces similar scrutiny for employing a tactic he himself has criticized in the past.

Optimism among top lawmakers for a timely resolution

Despite the challenges and controversies surrounding the deal, there is a sense of optimism among top lawmakers that an agreement can be reached and passed in both chambers before the looming deadlines.

Schumer, for his part, expressed confidence in the progress made after the White House meeting, even though discussions over Ukraine funding were described as "tense."

Johnson, in his commitment to avoiding future CRs, has emphasized the importance of reaching a conclusive agreement within the allocated time. The bipartisan nature of the deal, as well as the commitment to allow members sufficient time to review the appropriations bills, suggests a concerted effort to maintain government functionality while adhering to fiscal responsibilities.

Conclusion

  • Speaker Mike Johnson and congressional leaders have reached a spending deal to avert an imminent government shutdown, involving a short-term stopgap bill.
  • The deal postpones two government shutdown deadlines to later in March and includes provisions for several key appropriations bills.
  • A continuing resolution (CR) is expected to be voted on in the House and Senate to extend these deadlines, removing the risk of a partial government shutdown during President Biden's State of the Union address.
  • The "Big Four" leaders emphasized the importance of bipartisan cooperation and adherence to fiscal responsibility in their joint statement.
  • Internal GOP divisions, particularly among conservative hardliners, pose challenges to the deal's acceptance, with demands for border security provisions and fiscal discipline.
  • Optimism remains among top lawmakers for reaching a timely resolution and passing the agreement in both chambers, despite the contentious debate over government spending and fiscal responsibility.