Speaker Johnson Notches First Big Legislative Win — House of Representatives Pass Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown

Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives passed a bill along strong bipartisan lines to avoid a pre-holiday season government shutdown. The measure passed 336 to 95, well above the two-thirds margin needed to get the measure over the line. Only two Democrats voted against the legislation, and 93 from the GOP.

The bill is now headed to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where Democrat Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York indicated he would take it up as soon as possible.

Funding for fiscal year 2024 had been extended through November 17 to allow Congress additional time to pass 12 individual appropriations bills setting up the following year’s spending priorities. Faced with another impending deadline, Senate and House leaders agreed another short-term extension, also known as a continuing resolution (CR), was necessary.

The legislation’s passage was the first big test for Republican Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who took on the role less than a month ago after the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Despite more Democrats voting for the bill than Republicans, Johnson did notch a win by getting the majority of his GOP conference to support the resolution.

Johnson’s plan, released Saturday, creates two separate deadlines to fund different parts of the government and set up additional targeted goals to work toward. In theory, it would also prevent Congress from combining all 12 spending bills into a vast “omnibus” package, like the one passed by Senate and House Democrats last year but opposed by Republicans.

The first forces legislators to reckon with some of the traditional, less-controversial appropriations bills — those concerning Veterans Affairs and military construction, Energy and Water, Transportation, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development — by January 19. The remaining eight appropriations bills must be settled by February 2.

Some GOP members balked at the legislation’s lack of spending cuts

Members on the right of Johnson’s Republican conference balked at the legislation over its lack of spending cuts and conservative policy riders.

But, it has been quietly approved by leaders in the Senate, meaning Johnson’s first significant act as speaker will likely avert a government shutdown if President Joe Biden signs it.

“Both [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky] and I want to avoid a shutdown — so getting this done, obviously, before Friday midnight,” Schumer said at a Tuesday press conference. “You know, the Senate has lots of arcane rules, but McConnell and I are going to work together — we talked about this yesterday — to get it done as quickly as possible.”

Democrats had been cautious of Johnson’s decision to divide up funding deadlines. Still, the majority appeared relieved not to be forced to vote for a CR below the fiscal year 2023 funding levels.