Hakeem Jeffries won’t publicly say that Democrats plan to — once again — bail out the GOP speaker. But many of his members are privately prepared to do just that.
Inside a closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday, Jeffries outlined the various ways that Speaker Mike Johnson’s stopgap spending plan is a win for Democrats, though he didn’t directly tell them how to vote on it later Tuesday. Most importantly, he said, there are no spending cuts and no “poison pill” add-ons.
As of now, Jeffries and his leadership team aren’t formally whipping their members to support the GOP’s shutdown-averting spending bill, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions, which is scheduled for a floor vote Tuesday afternoon. Still, several Democratic members acknowledged to POLITICO that their party is prepared to put up the lion’s share of the votes. And with dozens of House Republicans declaring they won’t support the bill without steep spending cuts, that’ll mean Democrats will, once again, carry the load for GOP leaders.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Jeffries said he and Johnson had several conversations over the last few days. He declined to comment on them, though he added that he anticipates speaking more with him today. Jeffries said the caucus discussion was still “ongoing” but acknowledged the funding patch was free of extraneous provisions that could sap Democratic support.
Multiple Democrats privately predicted the party’s support could be nearly as high as the last short-term funding bill in September, where all but one House Democrat backed the bill.
In another sign of the Democrats’ support for the measure, even Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, cracked open the door to backing the legislation.
“I think those are very significant wins for us,” Jayapal said, pointing to the GOP’s decision not to cut spending levels or insert any obvious conservative priorities, commonly known as “poison pill” language. The full Progressive Caucus plans to meet on the measure later Tuesday.
Still, the measure leaves Democrats without one of their major demands: Foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel. And since this bill would punt the next funding deadline into January, it’s unclear how Congress and the White House can come to a deal that would deliver aid to either war-torn country before then. (Republicans did pass an Israel aid package, but one that was funded by cutting the Internal Revenue Service that stands no chance in the Senate.)
At their own internal meeting on Tuesday, Johnson and his GOP leadership team made the case for their shutdown-averting bill. The Louisiana Republican argued to fellow Republicans that this was the only path forward, given the reality of the House’s narrow margins and the nearly three weeks lost to the GOP’s speaker’s fight, according to people in the room. Still, Johnson took some heat from his right flank, including Freedom Caucus members like Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).
As of Tuesday morning, it’s not clear how many Republicans plan to support the bill.
Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), one Republican who opposes the package, criticized the strategy as being willing to “acquiesce to the Senate.”
“I think we’re surrendering without putting up the appropriate fight,” Ogles said.
Jordain Carney and Olivia Beavers contributed.