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Republican US House Speaker Johnson nears choice on avoiding gov“t shutdown


Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) addresses the U.S. House of Representatives after he was elected to be the new Speaker at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 25, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

Speaker Mike Johnson told key Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday that he will decide within the next two days on a path to avert a potential government shutdown, according to lawmakers.

The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate have just over a week to agree on a stopgap spending measure to keep federal agencies open after current funding expires on Nov. 17. Despite signs of some bipartisan talks between the chambers, Johnson has been focused on finding a solution that his 221-212 House Republican majority can accept.

Johnson told top Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee that he would decide on a stopgap measure within 24 to 48 hours, according to lawmakers who met with him behind closed doors in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

“That’s what he told us,” Representative David Joyce said.

Another appropriations panel member, Representative Andy Harris, told reporters: “The speaker said, you know, he’s going to make a decision by the weekend.”

Republican lawmakers said Johnson needs to decide quickly to ensure the House can vote on the stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution or “CR,” by Tuesday, citing a House rule requiring legislation to undergo a 72-hour review period before voting can commence.

“He has to decide within, like, 24 hours, because then you’ve got to write the CR and then you’ve got to put it out,” said Representative Mike Simpson, another Republican appropriator.

The choice will test Johnson’s effectiveness as the top Republican in Congress, just two weeks after he was chosen following nearly a month of Republican infighting.

Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted on Oct. 3, days after Republicans failed to agree on a stopgap measure and had to rely on Democratic support to avert a shutdown on Oct. 1.

Johnson, 51, a relative novice in leadership politics with few political enemies, continues to enjoy goodwill within the fractious House Republican caucus.

But the Louisiana Republican has come under steady pressure from hardline conservatives who back an unorthodox “laddered” measure intended to pressure the House and Senate to compromise by mid-January on full-year funding for fiscal 2024.

“There is growing agreement that a laddered approach … is probably a solution that gets us to 217 votes in the conference,” said Harris, who first proposed the idea.

Other Republicans say a short-term funding measure that includes unorthodox features or conservative policies could risk a partial government shutdown by forcing negotiations with the Senate as the clock ticks down.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in Congress, stressed the importance of bipartisanship, warning that a House bill passed with only Republican votes “is not going to be a very good way to move things forward.

“The four corners are talking,” said Schumer, using a term that refers to Johnson, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries and himself.

“We hope we can get bipartisan agreement to move forward as quickly as possible,” the New York Democrat told reporters.

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