Republicans mulling options to keep government open as shutdown deadline looms

Lawmakers have just over a week to figure out how to keep the government open but have not reached consensus on how to do it.

A stopgap spending bill approved in late September expires on Nov. 17. House Republicans have advanced more than half of the dozen spending bills needed to fund the government, but are not close to moving the rest of the bills before the fast-approaching deadline.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has publicly floated two ideas to keep the government open: a “laddered” continuing resolution, or a relatively “clean” stopgap bill. He has been tight-lipped about the details.

Further, the House and Senate haven’t agreed yet on President Biden’s request of roughly $106 billion in emergency aid for Israel, Ukraine and border security. 

Mr. Johnson, Louisiana Republican, said that the laddered approach on government funding would be split into two phases, in which lawmakers would tackle a “subset of the bills by a December date and the rest of it by January.”

A handful of bills would be given funding extensions until December, and another until January under that plan, with the hope that House conservatives would finish hammering out differences on the legislation with the Democrat-led Senate to produce the final versions of the spending measures by the respective deadlines.  

“The other alternative is a CR that would go into January with certain stipulations but again, I’m not going to show you all the cards right now,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Johnson will have to contend with members of his own conference that have vowed to never vote for a short-term spending bill, and who voted against the two previous stopgap bills brought by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican.

Some are warming to the idea of accepting a stopgap bill because Mr. Johnson has been thrown into an “emergency situation” after the three-week scramble to replace Mr. McCarthy, who was ousted because he needed House Democrats to pass his “clean” stopgap bill.

Rep. Tim Burchett, Tennessee Republican who voted against both stopgap attempts by Mr. McCarthy and voted to boot the former speaker, said that he could support a stopgap bill with U.S./Mexico border security policy and “real cuts” in spending.

He said he wouldn’t support a stopgap just because Mr. Johnson is in a jam.

“No I’m not,” Mr. Burchett said. “I’d like to see the details of it. I mean, I never say never, but I would like to see the details.”

Another stopgap holdout, Rep. Andy Ogles of Tennessee, told The Washington Times that because of the time crunch, lawmakers will be forced to pass a short-term funding bill that takes Congress through Christmas.

Mr. Ogles said that he would consider supporting a laddered approach if it included border security and a debt commission — a concept broached by Mr. Johnson that would examine how to combat the growing national debt.

“We’ve got to at least get to January and that’s coming from someone who’s a ‘never CR’ guy, but we’re in a jam,” Mr. Ogles said. “The holidays are coming, if we don’t appropriate through Christmas, we’re in trouble.”

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