Feb 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Mike Johnson grabs temporary escape hatch on shutdown backlash

This is Mike Johnson

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Image

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is attempting a careful balancing act as he tries to delay a partial government shutdown from starting this weekend.

Why it matters: The House Freedom Caucus and their right-wing allies are impatient with Johnson's deal-making with Democrats on federal funding.

  • "It's probably his only option," Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told Axios of another short-term spending patch.
  • But the conservative lawmaker also predicted Johnson's framing will fail to mollify his right flank and said "I probably won't vote for it."

What they're saying: Any stopgap resolution to temporarily fund the government "would be part of a larger agreement to finish a number of appropriations bills," Johnson spokesperson Athina Lawson told Axios in a statement.

  • The sole goal of the measure, she said, would be to ensure "adequate time for drafting text and for members to review prior to casting votes."
  • The stopgap measure offered by Johnson to Democrats would push the two deadlines of March 1 and 8 back to March 8 and 22, multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations told Axios.
  • The move essentially buys lawmakers another week to pass the first batch of funding bills needed to avert a partial government shutdown.

Zoom in: Lawmakers have acknowledged that the second batch of funding bills, which includes the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security, will be thornier to negotiate than the first.

  • House leadership is angling for a Thursday vote on the stopgap measure, a source familiar with the talks told Axios.

Between the lines: The framing of the bill as simply breathing room to hammer out technical details is meant to address conservative distaste for continuing resolutions.

  • One Johnson ally told Axios they believe the tactic will be effective – at least in ensuring the measure gets a majority of GOP votes.

The bottom line: Johnson may only be delaying the inevitable as the Freedom Caucus has pushed him not to agree to virtually any spending agreement that Senate Democrats would pass or President Biden would sign.

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