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Speaker Johnson Introduces Two-Step Plan to Fund Government Before Deadline

Speaker Mike Johnson has proposed a two-step stopgap bill to prevent a government shutdown with less than a week before federal funding runs out.

The bill, presented by Mr. Johnson during a GOP conference call on Saturday, sets up a potential battle with the Democrat-led Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Charles S. Schumer has criticized the plan. Senate Republicans have also expressed concerns about the complexity of the proposal.

According to a source familiar with the call, the bill would establish Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 as the target dates to finalize work on spending bills. Mr. Johnson aims to include military construction and VA, energy and water, and transportation legislation in the first phase of spending bills. The plan involves moving these bills into conference with the Senate, where a final version will be negotiated and sent to President Biden for approval.

“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to place House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories,” said Mr. Johnson. “The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess.”

All but one of the spending bills included in the first deadline has been advanced by the House. The transportation spending legislation was deferred by Mr. Johnson last week due to insufficient votes for its passage.

Traditionally, Congress combines the 12 spending bills that fund the government into a single omnibus bill. However, House Republicans have committed to changing this approach by advancing each spending bill individually.

The announcement comes with just six days remaining for Congress to avoid another shutdown. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill as early as Tuesday.

While the bill allows lawmakers to be off the Hill during the holiday season, a concern for many conservatives, Mr. Johnson is venturing into familiar territory that proved challenging for his predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, as the bill is relatively free of additional spending cuts.

Holdout lawmakers who opposed previous proposals, including an ultra-conservative stopgap bill, have indicated potential support for a laddered approach with conditions, such as spending cuts similar to those in the failed border security-focused stopgap bill.

Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus, stated that the bill would maintain government funding at previously agreed upon levels during Democratic control.

However, not all members are in favor of the bill. Mr. Roy of Texas opposes the relatively clean stopgap bill.

Despite potential opposition, Mr. Johnson may receive more flexibility from conservatives due to time constraints and greater trust compared to Mr. McCarthy.

Mr. Johnson has assured that if the laddered bill does not succeed, lawmakers can expect a yearlong stopgap bill. The bill also does not include Israel aid, which was previously proposed to attract Senate and House Democrats, who are largely expected to reject the bill.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, has criticized the multi-step bill, describing it as a “joke” and suggesting that the approach is leading the government closer to a shutdown.

Additionally, the Senate is considering its own approach to avoid a laddered option. Mr. Schumer initiated the process of advancing a vehicle for a Senate stopgap, potentially complicating the situation for the House.

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