When Congress very narrowly prevented a government shutdown in late September, lawmakers approved a stopgap measure — known as a continuing resolution, or CR — that kept the government’s lights on, but only temporarily. In effect, they gave themselves seven weeks to come to terms on a larger package that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.
House Republicans proceeded to spend three of those seven weeks ousting their speaker and rejecting three of his would-be successors. Budget negotiations weren’t much of an option: There was no GOP leader for Democrats to talk to.
Eventually, Republicans settled on their fifth choice, who took an uncomfortably long time coming up with a plan to prevent a shutdown. NBC News reported over the weekend:
Just two and a half weeks into the job, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., opted to go with a two-step continuing resolution, or CR, over a more typical funding extension covering the entire federal government. The untested funding approach is aimed at appeasing far-right agitators in his GOP conference who despise CRs.
It’s an odd plan, which, as best as I can tell, hasn’t been tried before. Under Johnson’s preferred model some federal operations will be covered through Jan. 19, while the rest of the government would be financed until Feb. 2. It’s been labeled a “laddered CR,” which is an annoying term you’ll likely be hearing quite a bit over the next several days.
The obvious question, of course, is whether the plan will pass. The answer isn’t yet clear — in part because the partisan lines are a little blurrier than expected.
Some far-right House Republicans have already announced their opposition to the speaker’s proposal, pointing to the fact that it prevents a shutdown without deep spending cuts. With this in mind, a familiar dynamic is taking shape: If GOP leaders lose more than four of their own members, their legislation will either (a) fail; or (b) be dependent on Democrats to advance.
Which leads to the other obvious question: Are Democrats inclined to kill Johnson’s proposal?
To be sure, Democrats seem to think the “laddered CR” approach is absurd, unnecessary, and needlessly complex. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a written statement, “This proposal is just a recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns — full stop.” She went on to describe the plan as “unserious,” which was echoed by Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.
Or as a Washington Post report summarized, “Instead of appeasing just one ideological faction, the proposal has angered the hard right, puzzled the middle and was mocked by the White House.”
And while that’s true, it doesn’t necessarily mean the plan will fail.
For Democrats, the speaker’s plan is a foolish gimmick, but it would prevent a shutdown without demands for drastic cuts. To this extent, it’s a relatively “clean” stopgap bill, which has long been the Democrats’ goal.
Will enough Democrats hold their noses, accept a tolerable bill, and vote with a sufficient number of Republicans to get the bill across the finish line? We won’t have to wait too long for an answer: In the coming hours, Johnson’s proposal will be considered by the House Rules Committee, with action on the House floor as early as tomorrow. Watch this space.