WASHINGTON — House lawmakers on Tuesday passed Speaker Mike Johnson’s stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown, most likely punting the GOP's spending fight until after the holidays.
The vote was 336-95, with 209 Democrats and 127 Republicans voting to support it. Ninety-three Republicans voted against it, more than voted against the last government funding bill in September; two Democrats opposed it: Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts and Mike Quigley of Illinois.
Because of the way leadership structured the vote, it needed support from two-thirds of the full House to pass.
"We just had to get the job done," Johnson, R-La., said after the vote.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to send it to President Joe Biden’s desk by Friday night to avert a shutdown.
Johnson's so-called laddered continuing resolution, or CR, would fund part of the government — including the Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs departments — through Jan. 19 and fund the Defense Department and other remaining parts of the government through Feb. 2.
The CR is "clean," with no spending cuts or contentious policy provisions that would alienate Democrats. It also does not include a supplemental package covering things like aid for Israel and Ukraine, humanitarian assistance or border security, leaving those issues for later in the year.
Facing a host of conservative defections, Johnson needed Democratic support to get his bill through the House. Moments before the vote, House Democratic leaders endorsed his plan, guaranteeing its passage.
"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."
Keeping the government's lights on into the New Year would buy more time for House Republicans to pass all 12 appropriations bills and for House and Senate negotiators to hammer out a broader deal. The CR also would give agitated lawmakers, who've been in session for 10 straight weeks, a chance to take a break from one another.
"I've been drinking from Niagara Falls the last three weeks. This will allow everybody to go home for a couple of days for Thanksgiving, everybody cool off," Johnson told reporters.
"Members have been here ... for 10 weeks. This place is a pressure cooker," he said. "And so I think everybody can go home, we can come back, reset. ... We're going to map out that plan to fight for those principles."
Earlier Tuesday, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., kept his cards close to the vest, saying Democrats were still evaluating Johnson's laddered proposal. But inside a closed-door meeting, Jeffries told rank-and-file Democrats about the CR, "This is OK. We can live with this," according to a member of his leadership team in attendance.
However, two top appropriators — Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. — argued in the room that Democrats cannot be a “cheap date” and help Johnson pass the CR without getting something in return, according to a source present at the meeting. DeLauro and Wasserman Schultz said they wanted a path forward on topline spending numbers and agreements on funding caps for the 12 spending bills, while others pushed for assurances that the House will vote on Israel and Ukraine aid.
Johnson's clean CR needed to rely on Democratic votes, just like the last funding bill, which cost Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., his job in early October. The House conservatives who helped oust McCarthy from power despise CRs in general, and on Tuesday morning, the far-right House Freedom Caucus said its members had taken a position opposing the laddered CR, even though it was originally proposed by Freedom Caucus members.
It "contains no spending reductions, no border security, and not a single meaningful win for the American People," the Freedom Caucus said in its statement.
Defending his strategy, Johnson argued that the CR would help Republicans tackle spending and debt in the future.
"We are not surrendering; we are fighting. But you have to be wise about choosing the fights," he said. "You got to fight fights that you can win."
"This was a very important first step to get us to the next stage so that we can change how Washington works," he said.
With Johnson having been in the job for less than three weeks, there has been no discussion among Republicans about an effort to remove him over the CR.
"I don’t like the bill. I like Speaker Johnson,” said Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy. “Speaker Johnson has been on the job for what, two or three weeks now? ... The reason why Speaker Johnson finds himself in the position he is in is because of nine months of failure under Speaker McCarthy.”
Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., another one of the group McCarthy has dubbed the "Hateful Eight," also cast blame on the former speaker.
"Speaker McCarthy had since January, and then he started working on it two weeks out before the deadline and after we had taken six weeks off, and dagnabbit, we should have been here working," Burchett said.
"I think people will be unhappy and uncomfortable with it," he said of Johnson's CR, but he added that he thinks Johnson will survive through the 2024 election.
"I think he's going to be a great speaker," he said.