Feb 27, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Democrats fume at Mike Johnson as government shutdown threat grows

House Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie, in a lens flare.

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images.

House Democrats are seething at Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) as they press him to ignore hardliners' calls to allow a government shutdown.

Why it matters: Democrats see the window closing to prevent a partial shutdown on Friday unless Congress comes to a deal on funding legislation.

  • "The odds of a government shutdown go up every hour that we don't see legislative text for a budget vote," Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.) told Axios.

What they're saying: "It's literally up to one person, the Speaker, and whether he'll ignore his far right obstructionist members and let us vote on them," said centrist, swing-district Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio).

  • "The Speaker has a day or two to decide who comes first: the country or [House Republican] Chip Roy," Landsman added.
  • Johnson "needs to lead the United States Congress, not the Trump Congress," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).

State of play: Johnson has just three days to pass the four appropriations bills needed to avoid a shutdown and is reluctant to put yet another stopgap spending measure on the floor.

  • Conservatives have pressed the speaker to embrace hardball tactics to try to secure spending cuts and conservative policy riders that would all but ensure a shutdown.
  • Coming out of what Democratic leaders described as an "intense" White House meeting on Monday, Johnson said he is "very optimistic."

Zoom in: Democratic lawmakers are pessimistic that a shutdown can be avoided with just over three days left.

  • "Unfortunately I think the odds are better than 50-50 that [we will] have a shutdown based on Speaker Johnson's track record," said Cohen.
  • A schedule for the week sent to Democrats' offices warned that members "should be prepared to be here this weekend" and listed plans for Friday, Saturday and Sunday as "TBD".

The bottom line: While Democrats' frustration likely won't stand in the way of passing government funding, it could come prove significant down the line.

  • Democrats have toyed with the idea of saving Johnson in the event one of his hardliners tries to oust him, but their forbearance would be largely based on the speaker standing up to his right flank.
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