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House passes two-tiered stopgap bill to avert shutdown

Continuing resolution now heads to the Senate where it's expected to receive broad support

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., holds a news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., holds a news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House easily passed Speaker Mike Johnson’s stopgap spending measure that would continue to fund the government into the new year with broad bipartisan support Tuesday afternoon. 

Johnson’s continuing resolution faced serious opposition from members of the House Freedom Caucus and their allies, and 93 Republicans ended up voting against the bill. But all but two Democrats backed it, pushing the final tally to 336-95 and meeting the two-thirds standard needed to pass bills under suspension of the rules. 

Reps. Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts and Mike Quigley of Illinois, who have sought more funding for Ukraine that is not part of the stopgap measure, were the lone Democratic dissenters. “I cannot support a short-term spending measure, cobbled together as the GOP careens from crisis to crisis, that fails to defend democracy,” Auchincloss said in a statement.

The bill now heads over to the Senate, where both Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.y., expressed support for the measure Tuesday. It is expected to easily clear the Senate, though any one senator could conceivably delay passage and cut into Thanksgiving recess.

The bill extends funding for agencies for different periods of time, in an uncommon maneuver. Agencies covered by the Agriculture; Energy-Water; Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD bills would have their funding extended to Jan. 19, while the eight other appropriations bills would be extended to Feb. 2. 

Johnson’s decision to pass a stopgap bill at the fiscal 2023 spending levels and no policy changes angered some right-wing Republicans, but ultimately allowed Democrats to lend their support to the measure to avoid a government shutdown. 

Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, said the stopgap bill would give the chamber more time to negotiate a topline spending level and subcommittee allocations with the Senate.

“More importantly, this plan will allow us to avoid harmful government shutdowns during the holidays, prevent a last-minute omnibus and allow us to discuss supplemental funding separately from full-year spending,” Granger said.

Appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., criticized the bill even as she ultimately voted for it.

DeLauro said the continuing resolution is flawed as it does not include supplemental funding President Joe Biden requested for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and domestic priorities like child care and disaster relief. She also criticized the bill’s “laddered” approach.

“A so-called laddered bill makes it harder to reach a final agreement… it doubles the likelihood of future shutdowns,” DeLauro said. “At a time of global crisis, we should promote stability, and not chaos.”

DeLauro said the bill should include an additional $405 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Programs for Women, Infants and Children, a Biden administration priority that Democrats are fighting for. 

“The House Republican proposal includes no additional funds and will require states to halt enrollment or scale back benefits,” DeLauro said.

Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Andy Harris, R-Md., said the Agriculture Department has the authority to maintain WIC participation under the terms of the stopgap funds law that expires Friday, which the new CR would extend.

The provision would enable USDA to work with the Office of Management and Budget to secure enough of its WIC allotment to maintain current participation levels. “It’s shameful that advocacy groups and the Biden administration use such scare tactics when they know full well they have the ability to fund WIC for the duration of this continuing resolution,” Harris said.

However, Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass.; Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.; and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., informed Democratic offices Tuesday afternoon that they would support the bill.

“House Democrats have repeatedly articulated that any continuing resolution must be set at the fiscal year 2023 spending level, be devoid of harmful cuts and free of extreme right-wing policy riders,” the Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. “The continuing resolution before the House today meets that criteria and we will support it.”

‘We’re not surrendering’

The House Freedom Caucus took a formal position against the bill Tuesday morning, saying it included “no spending reductions, no border security, and not a single meaningful win for the American People.”

But Johnson, R-La., argued Tuesday he is not responsible for the current state of affairs, and said Republicans are making progress. 

“We’re not surrendering, we’re fighting,” Johnson said. “But you have to be wise about the fights you go into.” 

The Senate will now consider the legislation with the current stopgap government spending law expiring Friday at midnight. 

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said there is a “high level of interest” in the chamber of moving the process smoothly. 

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., talks with reporters after the Republican Senate luncheon in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“I think it will pass fairly easily over here and I’m hopeful without a lot of fanfare, but you know any individual senator can hold it up,” Thune said. 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is pushing for a vote on an amendment that would cut all discretionary spending by 2 percent, but said he expects to be granted an amendment so that he would not hold up final passage of the bill. 

Long way to go

After the Senate passes the legislation, both chambers will turn their attention back to their own fiscal 2024 appropriations processes. 

The House has passed seven of its twelve appropriations bills, and it’s unclear if the chamber can pass any of the remaining five. 

The Agriculture bill was defeated on the floor, and the Transportation-HUD and Financial Services bills were pulled from consideration before a final floor vote in the face of certain rejection. 

The House is considering the Labor-HHS-Education bill this week with the Commerce-Justice-Science bill on deck, but both face long odds regarding final passage as the full Appropriations Committee lacked the votes to even try marking them up.

The Senate has passed three of its twelve spending bills — Agriculture, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD; all three were inserted into the House-passed Military Construction-VA bill as a substitute amendment.

Appropriators are now considering whether they will try to pass the rest of the bunch as one big nine-bill combo, or continue to try to move smaller appropriations packages.

The two chambers will need to reach agreement on overall topline spending levels before they are able to hammer out final appropriations bills. The two chambers are tens of billions of dollars apart.

The Senate’s bills largely adhere to levels laid out in the debt limit law, though nearly $14 billion in additional emergency funding is tacked on. The House bills come in below the debt limit law’s caps, and ignore much of the extra money agreed to in a “side deal” accompanying that law to use accounting maneuvers to boost nondefense funds higher.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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