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Senate Democrats hand Speaker Mike Johnson a small win as spending negotiations continue

By Stew Davidson
|
March 1, 2024

In a recent turn of events, the Senate approved a fourth short-term spending bill, marking a modest win for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) amid ongoing spending negotiations.

The Senate's decision to pass another short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown highlights the ongoing challenges in reaching a long-term funding agreement. This move extends government funding deadlines further into the fiscal year 2024, preventing a shutdown that loomed over the weekend, as reported by the Daily Mail.

A step towards budget reform or a missed opportunity?

The final vote in the Senate saw a significant majority in favor, with a tally of 77-13.

This decision followed the House's approval of the continuing resolution (CR), which passed with a vote of 320-99 earlier that Thursday. The division in the House was notable, with two Democrats and 97 Republicans voting against the bill.

The plan moving forward involves passing six appropriations bills next week to fund various government agencies, followed by another six the week after. These bills are expected to be grouped into packages for a streamlined voting process, a strategy often referred to as a "minibus."

From omnibus to minibus: A strategic shift in congressional funding

In the past, Congress has typically consolidated funding for all 12 government agencies into a single package, known as an omnibus.

However, the current approach represents a departure from this tradition, with House Republicans, who have long advocated for individual votes on twelve separate bills, now seemingly accepting the practical challenges of such an endeavor.

Johnson, reflecting on this shift, viewed the division of spending legislation into smaller parts as a significant step forward.

The speaker said:

We're trying to turn the aircraft carrier back to real budgeting and spending reform. This was an important thing to break it up into smaller pieces.

The clock is ticking for fiscal year 2025 planning

The text of the spending bills is expected to be released over the weekend, providing lawmakers with 72 hours to review the proposals before voting.

This development comes as Congress begins to encroach on its time to formulate a spending plan for fiscal year 2025, which commences in October.

The urgency of passing the CR was underscored by the House's return from a two-week recess, with the vote concluding a work week that lasted less than 24 hours.

The recurrent reliance on continuing resolutions has drawn criticism from some right-wing Republicans, marking this as the fourth CR of the current Congress and the third under Johnson's leadership.

Discontent and disillusionment among House Republicans

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) expressed her frustration with the ongoing reliance on CRs, reviving the term "House of hypocrites" to describe the situation.

"I am bringing back the nickname for the House of Representatives to be the House of hypocrites," she told reporters, highlighting the contradiction between previous commitments to avoid CRs and the current reality.

The House Freedom Caucus had pushed for a year-long CR, especially in light of impending across-the-board one percent spending cuts set to commence on April 30.

However, Johnson conveyed to them that this approach lacked broad support within the Republican conference, leading to disappointment among members like Greene.

"It's a failure," Greene remarked, summarizing her view of the new spending plan as a departure from the party's stated principles.

The political ramifications of funding strategies

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) speculated that this might not be the last time Congress resorts to extending funding deadlines, maintaining spending at levels established in 2023 under former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Nehls shared insights from his constituents in Texas, who expressed their dissatisfaction with Congress's performance during the early voting period.

"The voters that I spoke to for the last eight days in Texas during early voting are very disgusted with what we're doing in Congress," Nehls conveyed to DailyMail.com, suggesting that the current approach could jeopardize the party's standing in future elections.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) likened the House Republicans' strategy to a football team whose best play is the punt, critiquing the lack of action on needed spending cuts.

This sentiment was echoed by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), who supported a full-year CR with one percent cuts, lamenting the continuation of spending at levels he and other Republicans had previously opposed.

Conclusion

  • The Senate's recent approval extends fiscal deadlines, preventing an immediate shutdown.
  • House Republicans' shift from advocating for separate bills to accepting minibus packages reflects practical challenges.
  • Conservative Republicans express disillusionment with the continued reliance on CRs.
  • Concerns arise over the political consequences of current funding strategies.
  • The legislative process's integrity and efficacy are under scrutiny as Congress navigates fiscal responsibilities.