Capitol Correspondence - 11.14.23

New Speaker Johnson Faces Crucial Test

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With the expiration of government funding just around the corner on Friday, the newly appointed House Speaker, Mike Johnson, is navigating a complex funding landscape. In an attempt to address demands from the right, Johnson has proposed a two-tiered spending plan, extending current funding levels. This strategy, however, has met significant resistance from conservatives advocating for substantial spending cuts. The plan establishes two deadlines for funding portions of the government, with one set on January 19 and another on February 2, presenting a potential risk of a government shutdown.

The proposal, the first major test for Speaker Johnson, has stirred dissent among Republicans, with skepticism even within their own ranks. The House has scheduled the vote on the continuing resolution for 4:20pm ET today. Notably, the plan includes measures to extend funding for community health centers, teaching health centers, and the National Health Service Corps until January 19. Additionally, it postpones cuts to specific safety-net hospitals under Medicaid until the same date.

As the 118th Congress grapples with the imminent funding deadline, Moody’s recent downgrade of the U.S. government’s credit rating underscores the challenges in maintaining financial stability. Speaker Johnson’s proposed funding approach aligns with a “clean” stopgap bill, aiming to maintain the status quo until January and February for specific spending bills.

The Speaker’s strategy involves seeking extensions for government funding until January 19 for select spending bills, such as Agriculture, Energy and Water, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD. The remaining federal government funding, encompassing eight other bills, would be extended until February 2. Notably, certain elements, including funds for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, and an extension of FISA surveillance authority, have been excluded from the proposed package, setting the stage for potential legislative challenges in the future.

Despite Johnson’s assurance that he will not allow “end-of-year megabus spending packages” under his leadership, the proposal has faced opposition from hardline conservatives and senior Democrats alike. The intricate nature of the funding plan and its potential consequences heighten the stakes for Speaker Johnson in garnering support across party lines. As the House prepares to vote on the measure, the outcome will not only shape the trajectory of government funding but also define the early days of Mike Johnson’s tenure as Speaker of the House.