Feb 20, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: GOP privately expects government shutdown

This is Mike Johnson

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Behind closed doors, House Republicans have shifted from optimistically cautious to expecting a government shutdown, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will have to choose in coming weeks between a fight with Democrats that threatens a shutdown, or a deal with Democrats that threatens his job.

  • "People are predicting a shutdown even if it's just for a few days," a GOP lawmaker recently told Axios.
  • They're either "close to reaching a deal or it's about to blow up," one subcommittee chair recently told a fellow House Republican.

Zoom in: The government will start a partial shutdown unless a budget or spending stopgap is passed by March 1.

  • It will go into a full shutdown if there's not a budget or stopgap by March 8.
  • "We think we're going to meet the deadlines," Johnson told reporters last week.

⏰ The key date is April 30. If there's not a new budget by then, it will trigger a 1% across-the-board spending cut. Democrats won't back a stopgap bill beyond this.

  • Across-the-board cuts are A-OK for some House conservatives.
  • They're frustrated by the lack of policy riders on abortion, gender-affirming care and medical research in the current negotiations.

Between the lines: House Republicans have stopped laughing off the idea that Johnson could face the same treatment as former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

  • Johnson's simple but risky option to avoid a shutdown would be to use Democratic votes to pass a deal with a two-thirds majority.
  • But McCarthy's ouster in October was sparked by him working with Democrats on a spending stopgap.
  • "It's going to be difficult to do what we need to do and not have someone do" a motion to vacate, a member who isn't supportive of removing Johnson told Axios.

Reality check: Republicans have no backup plan if they oust Johnson, and blaming Democrats for a shutdown would be a challenge if they descend into another embarrassing speaker race stalemate.

  • There's still the option of another spending stopgap into late March or April.
  • But by April 30, Johnson will likely have to make his choice.
Go deeper