House Republicans came to their collective senses on Oct. 25 and elected U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) as the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, ushering in new leadership three weeks after former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was ousted when 208 House Democrats joined a coalition of 8 House Republicans on Oct. 3 in removing his via motion to vacate the chair.
The vote among Republicans for once was unanimous on the House floor, with Johnson getting even more support than did McCarthy when he was finally elected in January. What remains to be seen is if Republicans will be able to keep the conference united when the House proceeds to imminent appropriations bills Johnson has promised to put onto the floor in the coming days and weeks.
In an Oct. 23 dear colleague letter to House Republicans prior to winning the internal conference election for the Speaker nomination, Johnson laid out the legislative calendar for appropriations for the next 18 months. Per the calendar, four appropriations bills will come up immediately in the next week: Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, Interior and Environment and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.
I’m in! pic.twitter.com/VSn14QkHEG— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) October 21, 2023
Four more would follow in the week after that, in time for the Nov. 17 when the current continuing resolution comes due. Johnson acknowledged that his proposed, expedited schedule for passage of appropriations was “ambitious,” and afforded that there might not be time to work out differences with the Senate.
If so, Johnson also offered another continuing resolution as a fallback: “if another stopgap measure is needed to extend government funding beyond the November 17 deadline, I would propose a measure that expires on January 15 or April 15… to ensure the Senate cannot jam the House with a Christmas omnibus.”
While it is unclear what might be attached to such a continuing resolution — previous failed continuing resolutions included one that had H.R. 2 border security attached — it is worth noting that the passage of a bipartisan continuing resolution to keep the government open until Nov. 17 was what got McCarthy removed from the Speaker’s office in the first place, or at least was one of the votes that immediately preceded his removal.
If all of the appropriations bills are not passed into law before the end of the year, then automatic budget cuts via sequestration from the debt ceiling deal between President Joe Biden and former Speaker McCarthy go into effect.
Assuming Johnson gets that far. Will those who deposed McCarthy move against Johnson if the House and Senate cannot agree on the appropriations bills prior to Nov. 17 and he opts for a continuing resolution as stated in his dear colleague letter?
Could these members embrace an approach that previously they had rejected, or at least tacitly consent to it by not vacating the chair?
Or if there is no agreement on a continuing resolution, and there is a partial government shutdown, in the law of unintended consequences, could there be members on the other side who would want to vacate the chair in a bid to reopen the government?
Could moderate Republicans accept a temporary shutdown to give Johnson the space he needs to negotiate a compromise?
Since it appears highly unlikely the House and the Senate will agree on all 12 of the appropriations bills before the Nov. 17 funding deadline, we might be about to find out, with Johnson’s first major test coming up on appropriations. Stay tuned.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.