Welcome to the toughest week yet for Speaker Mike Johnson.
The Louisiana Republican must pass a funding measure this week that can win support from Democrats — including in the Senate and White House — or send the country into a paralyzing shutdown days before Thanksgiving.
But Johnson is already facing serious pushback from his right, in the first sign of division between the new speaker and the ultra-conservative wing of the GOP who cheered on his ascension to the top spot.
Johnson’s plan to avoid a funding lapse, which he revealed over the weekend, involves a two-part funding bill that would punt Congress’ spending debate into early next year, but without any of the sharp cuts hardliners demanded.
That bill is already in trouble with Republicans: A half-dozen GOP lawmakers are already out against Johnson’s plan — enough to sink the bill without Democratic support. And if Democrats do support it, it could still be politically problematic for Johnson, as it’s the same strategy that triggered former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster last month.
“I will not support a status quo that fails to acknowledge fiscal irresponsibility, and changes absolutely nothing while emboldening a do-nothing Senate and a fiscally illiterate President,” Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said Monday.
House Democrats have not yet devised a voting strategy, though there is not “mass opposition right now” to the plan, according to one Democratic member. Still, the party would prefer it include aid for Israel and Ukraine, and dislikes that the GOP is proposing two separate deadlines to complete the rest of its appropriations work. Some senior Democratic appropriators like ranking member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) have already come out publicly against it.
Multiple other Democratic members, however, noted that some in their party are likely to support the bill, though conversations are ongoing.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer started laying the groundwork late last week for his own government funding plan, but he’ll need buy-in from every senator to meet that deadline. And with time running short, Senate Democrats are also leaving the door open to potentially supporting Johnson’s plan — if it can get through the House.
Johnson’s plan would divide funding up into two tranches — with part of the government funded until Jan. 19 and the rest until Feb. 2.
The two-part strategy was initially embraced by members of the House Freedom Caucus — and panned in advance by Democrats — because it would avoid the threat of the Senate trying to jam through a massive funding bill just before the holidays.
But Perry, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and other members of the group have balked because Johnson’s plan is largely a so-called clean continuing resolution. It doesn’t include massive spending cuts pushed for by conservatives, or other GOP priorities like border security or more aid for Israel.
Roy is a member of the Rules Committee, meaning he’ll get his first shot at voting against the bill on Monday afternoon. Johnson will also need to hold his conference together to even bring his spending bill to the floor — a once-routine step that has grown increasingly uncertain this year given the deep divisions with a House GOP conference that only rules by a four-seat majority.
Further complicating matters, Johnson saw his broader spending strategy rejected by his own members. The speaker and his team were forced to pull two of the GOP’s own spending bill’s from the floor last week — aggravating fellow Republicans rather than helping them to unify ahead of this Saturday’s funding deadline.
Nicholas Wu contributed.