Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., conducts a news conference featuring remarks by college students about antisemitism on college campuses, in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, December 5, 2023.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Senate Republicans repeatedly said this week that a short-term spending bill may be necessary to keep the government open, a harsh reality for House Speaker Mike Johnson, who is balancing a looming shutdown deadline with the demands of hardline Republicans.
The last temporary spending bill Congress passed, in November, established a laddered schedule of funding deadlines, the first on Jan. 19 and the other on Feb. 2. On Sunday, members of Congress reached an agreement on a topline spending bill, but still have to negotiate four separate appropriations bills by Jan. 19 to keep the government open.
As the first deadline approaches, members have expressed growing doubt on whether a shutdown can be avoided without another continuing resolution, or CR.
“Time is so compressed and the deadline so short that I’m afraid we’re looking at another short-term continuing resolution,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in an interview Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Cornyn echoes Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who both said this week that a stopgap funding measure is looking increasingly inevitable.
Meanwhile, eyes are on Johnson to follow through on the hardline Republican demands he was elected to champion. If not, he could meet the same fate as his predecessor, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was ousted in part for conceding to Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.
Johnson said he is planning to call former President Donald Trump on Wednesday to “talk him through the details” of the budget negotiations.
“He and I have a very close relationship,” Johnson said Wednesday on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” “He’s been an enthusiastic supporter of my leadership here, and I expect he’ll be doing that again.”
While following through on the hardline demands would earn Johnson points with some House Republicans, it makes negotiating with Democrats harder, adding time to budget talks that he does not have.
Another CR would be a tough pill to swallow for Johnson, who has pledged to break the pattern of funding the government via short spurts instead of a cohesive budget.
“I think operating by CRs and shutting down the government is a dereliction of duty. I don’t think it’s the way it’s supposed to be done,” Johnson said at a Wall Street Journal conference in December. “And what we’re going to try to do in the coming year is get us back to that process that the law requires that we won’t be in this situation again.”
Congress left for the holiday season with many issues unresolved, punting negotiations to 2024. As time dwindles, Johnson may be forced to break his no-CR promise.
To add to Johnson’s dilemmas, hardline House Republicans may not afford him the same leeway as in November when he was just under a month into his speaker tenure and conceded spending cuts to Democrats to pass the temporary funding bill.
“For now, I am pleased that Speaker Johnson seems to be moving in our direction by advancing a CR that does not include the highly partisan cuts that Democrats have warned against,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said at the time.