The House of Representatives on Nov. 14 passed a stop-gap spending bill to continue government funding in two stages through Feb. 2.
209 Democrats joined 127 Republicans to pass the measure in a vote of 336-95. It was opposed by 93 Republicans and two Democrats.
The bipartisan passage produced a major win for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), whose predecessor was ousted after passing a similar bill in September.
The bill was considered under a suspension of rules, meaning that it required a two-thirds majority to pass. That tactic was an apparent attempt to avoid having the bill torpedoed during a procedural vote that would otherwise have been required.
It now heads to the Senate, which has until midnight on Nov. 17 to pass the measure or risk a government shutdown.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both support the action.
The speaker, who assumed office on Oct. 25 amid a legislative battle over federal funding, began barely three weeks before the stop-gap funding bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), approved on Sept. 30 was set to expire.
That prompted Mr. Johnson to propose another CR but with a unique feather.
This bill, H.R. 6363, “Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2024,” would extend the funding authority for various functions of the federal government in two stages.
The Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Water, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs through Jan. 19.
Funding for the departments covered by the remaining eight spending bills would be extended through Feb. 2.
Continuing resolutions have been increasingly unpopular with fiscally conservative Republicans. Mr. Johnson defended this CR as both a useful innovation and a last resort.
“This was a very important first step to … change how Washington works,” Mr. Johnson told reporters on Nov. 14.
“I think every member in that room agrees that that’s an important innovation, and it changes the way things are done.”
The CR is part of Mr. Johnson’s plan to move the House back to regular order, meaning that spending bills will be passed one at a time, with an opportunity for debate and amendment on the House floor.
Moments later, the speaker said he would never use that tool again.
“The House Republican Conference is committed to never being in this situation again. I’m done with short-term CRs,” Mr. Johnson said.
The House will pass all 12 spending bills by Sept. 30 next year, the last day of the federal fiscal year, Mr. Johnson said, something that has happened only four times in the past 50 years.
That will avoid the need for continuing resolutions, which are often followed by a large omnibus spending bill passed near the end of the calendar year.
While some Republican members were very unhappy with the bill’s passage, they made it clear Mr. Johnson would not suffer the retaliation meted out to the former speaker.
“This is not the right approach,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told The Epoch Times after the vote. “We should be moving a bill that has overwhelming Republican support.”
Asked if Mr. Johnson would suffer consequences for passing a bill with the majority of votes supplied by Democrats, Mr. Roy said, “We contemplated a couple of different actions today,” but added that a motion to vacate the chair was not among them. “We’re gonna give him a little bit of room,” Mr. Roy said. “Mike’s a good man.”
Minority Whip Catherine Clark (D-Mass.) said Democrats were willing to support the bill because it did not include riders attacking their priorities, such as a move to ban abortion or close civil rights offices.
“I think [Mr. Johnson] knew that having a shutdown again on the Republicans’ watch is bad for them and that this was the only way we were gonna vote for it,” Ms. Clark told reporters.
“I’m very relieved that the government will not shut down on Friday night. But this is no way to run the country,” Ms. Clark added.
House Republicans now face the challenge of getting the Senate to negotiate over the single-subject spending bills that the House has been passing before the deadlines come up again, according to Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.).
“I think the real danger is if the Senate thinks they can just blow off the House and try to jam us with some sort of an [omnibus spending bill] as we get into January,” Mr. Johnson said. “They’re wrong.”
No Add Ons, No Cuts
Notably absent from the bill are aid for Israel, Ukraine, and other national security spending requested by President Joe Biden on Oct. 20.
The strategy was deliberate, according to Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who defended the bill in an Oct. 13 committee hearing.
He said those items should be considered separately.
Republicans have been insistent on considering single-subject spending bills so each item can be debated and amended individually.
The bill mandates no spending cuts either, which drew opposition from a significant number of Republicans.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) opposes the bill because it would continue 2023 funding levels, which had been set by Democrats for another two months.
“We’re going to continue to perpetuate spending … which is $131 billion higher than the fiscal year 22 level. And we’re going to do that with the policies embedded in it that were adopted at the time while we have a $2 trillion deficit,” Mr. Roy said.
The House Freedom Caucus, which includes approximately 40 of the most conservative House Republicans, issued a statement against the proposal on Nov. 14.
“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 statement said.
“While we remain committed to working with Speaker Johnson, we need bold change.”
Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, the largest House caucus, said he plans to oppose the bill because it doesn’t include spending cuts already agreed to by both houses of Congress.
“We passed the [Fiscal Responsibility Act] back in May that had spending cuts. We need to get to those cuts,” Mr. Hern told reporters on Nov. 14.