Democrats Signal Support for Johnson’s Plan to Avoid Shutdown Ahead of Vote

The House on Tuesday pressed toward a vote on legislation to keep federal funding flowing into early next year, as a bloc of Democrats tacitly signaled their willingness to back a plan opposed by many Republicans to avert a shutdown at the end of the week.

With funding for federal agencies set to expire at midnight on Friday, Speaker Mike Johnson moved late Monday night to bring the spending bill to the House floor under special expedited procedures that require a supermajority for passage, meaning that substantial Democratic help would be needed. The maneuver by the newly elected speaker — who won his post only three weeks ago — came after hard-right lawmakers increasingly said they would not support the measure because it maintained government spending at current levels.

A vote was expected late Tuesday afternoon.

House Democratic leaders have yet to state an official position on the bill. Many of them have questioned the proposal because it contains two staggered deadlines for funding different parts of the federal government, one on Jan. 19 and one on Feb. 2. But an increasing number of Democrats have privately said that they planned to vote for it because it did not include any spending cuts or policy changes — both demands of hard-right Republicans — and because they saw no other way to prevent a shutdown.

“Our current evaluation of the continuing resolution presented by Speaker Johnson is that it does not include extraneous and extreme right-wing policy provisions,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic leader, said on NPR, adding that some in his caucus continued to have concerns about the proposal’s two funding deadlines.

One of his top deputies, Representative Pete Aguilar of California, the No. 3 Democrat, was blunter after House Democrats met in the basement of the Capitol Tuesday morning to discuss how to handle the bill. “We do not stand for shutdowns and showdowns,” he said. “That’s just not who we are.”

Separately, Mr. Johnson predicted that the measure would receive bipartisan agreement and defended it as a way to give Republicans more time to pass the dozen individual spending measures that lawmakers are supposed to enact each year to fund the government.

At a news conference after meeting behind closed doors with Republicans, Mr. Johnson conceded that the proposal did not include a number of priorities that conservatives had agitated for.

“I want to cut spending right now, and I would like to put policy riders” on the bill, he said. “But when you have a three-vote majority — as we do right now — we don’t have the votes. So what we need to do is avoid the government shutdown.”

Passage of the plan is likely to rely on a similar coalition of Democrats and mainstream Republicans as that used by Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to avert a shutdown in September and to suspend the debt ceiling earlier in the year. Those steps cost Mr. McCarthy his job.

Mr. Johnson has inherited the same spending dilemmas that dogged Mr. McCarthy. Hard-right Republicans have insisted on loading up the individual government spending bills with deep cuts and conservative policy provisions that mainstream, politically vulnerable Republicans have refused to support.

At the same time, some conservatives have flatly refused to back any sort of stopgap spending measure, including one that Mr. McCarthy advanced in September that included drastic cuts to government programs — in many cases as much as 29 percent.

On Tuesday, some of those same hard-line conservatives who moved to oust Mr. McCarthy vented their anger at Mr. Johnson. The House Freedom Caucus, a group of approximately three dozen hard-right lawmakers, announced that it would oppose the measure.

“It contains no spending reductions, no border security and not a single meaningful win for the American people,” the group wrote in a statement. “Republicans must stop negotiating against ourselves over fears of what the Senate may do with the promise ‘roll over today and we’ll fight tomorrow.’”

But in a sign that there was little appetite to depose Mr. Johnson for relying on Democrats to pass the legislation, as they did to Mr. McCarthy, the lawmakers continued, “While we remain committed to working with Speaker Johnson, we need bold change.”

Reporting was contributed by Luke Broadwater, Kayla Guo, Annie Karni and Carl Hulse.

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