House Passes Laddered CR with Democratic Support

A second Republican Speaker has reached across the aisle to avert a government shutdown.

WaPo (“House passes bill to avert government shutdown, sends to Senate“):

The House on Tuesday passed stopgap legislation to keep the federal government operating past this weekend, sending the bill to the Senate days before the deadline without any of the deep spending cuts conservative Republicans had sought.

Without new spending laws, the government will shut down at 12:01 a.m., Saturday, forcing federal workers — including military members and airport security agents — to miss paychecks on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday. The legislation, passed on a 336-95 vote, extends funding at current spending levels for about 20 percent of the federal government until Jan. 19, and the remaining 80 percent until Feb. 2.

The “laddered” deadlines in the bill, called a continuing resolution or CR, are designed to allow the House and Senate to pass and negotiate full-year spending bills — though the two chambers are nowhere near an agreement on those — and avoid a massive year-end spending bill called an omnibus. It could still trigger two more standoffs that lead to partial government shutdowns early next year.

“This is an important innovation,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told reporters Tuesday morning. “We have broken the fever. We are not going to have a massive omnibus spending bill right before Christmas. This is a gift to the American people.”

Funds would expire for military and veterans programs, agriculture and food agencies, and the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development on Jan. 19. They would expire for the State, Defense, Commerce, Labor, and Health and Human Services departments, among others, on Feb. 2. The bill passed the House under a process called “suspension of the rules,” which required two-thirds of the chamber to approve the measure because some far-right Republicans refused to allow it to proceed under a lower threshold without spending reductions.

Leaders of both parties in the Senate have endorsed the proposal, and the upper chamber is expected to vote on the bill later this week.

“I am heartened — cautiously so — that Speaker Johnson is moving forward with a CR that omits precisely the sort of hard-right cuts that would have been nonstarters for Democrats,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I certainly don’t agree with everything the speaker is proposing, and I can’t imagine too many senators would have taken the speaker’s approach in drafting this bill. But the proposal before the House does two things Democrats have pushed for: It will avert a shutdown, and it will do so without making any terrible hard-right cuts that the MAGA right-wing demands.”

He called the laddered approach “goofy” later in a news conference, but said he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would act “as soon as possible” on the legislation.

Despite what appears on the surface as overwhelming, bipartisan passage, a substantial number of House Republicans—the so-called Freedom Caucus—are angry.

POLITICO (“Conservatives hold back on Johnson ouster threat — but plot other payback“):

Speaker Mike Johnson is averting a government shutdown essentially the same way Kevin McCarthy did: by partnering with Democrats to pass a government funding bill with no spending cuts.

Unlike his predecessor, it won’t cost him the job.

Many House conservatives are fuming that Johnson — the most ideologically conservative speaker in decades — refused to take a hard line in his first attempt negotiating with Democrats and instead leaned on them for help. In the end, more Democrats voted for the measure than Republicans, in nearly identical numbers to the September stopgap measure that triggered McCarthy’s firing. Some tore into his strategy in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, arguing that his plan, which would allow funding levels set under Nancy Pelosi to persist for months, is tantamount to surrender.

They’re not looking to oust Johnson over it. But some conservatives are privately entertaining other ways to retaliate.

One tactic under discussion is the same one they used against McCarthy after he struck a debt deal they hated: holding the House floor hostage by tanking procedural votes.

“There is a sentiment that if we can’t fight anything, then let’s just hold up everything,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), one of several frustrated Freedom Caucus members who has huddled with the speaker multiple times this week.

There are a few reasons conservatives won’t push a mutiny 20 days into Johnson’s speakership, an effort Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) characterized as “untenable.” But mainly, Johnson doesn’t have the same stubborn trust issues that plagued his predecessor.

McCarthy and his allies argue he was ousted not for working with Democrats to pass a spending bill, but largely due to personal animus among the eight GOP members who voted against him, particularly the leader of the rebellion, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).


There’s another hurdle: Johnson is confronting a GOP conference that’s now even more bitterly divided than when his predecessor was in charge. Besides frustrations from the right flank, the Louisianan is also facing restive groups of Biden-district Republicans and centrists, who have increasingly made clear they’ll push back if leadership tries to force tough votes. After its ugly 22-day speaker battle, the 221-member conference has seemingly lost its ability to maneuver as a team. Instead, it’s every man for himself.

“You’ve got everybody acting as an independent agent rather than acting in a uniform way,” said Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio). “And they’re not necessarily in one line or the other. I think because of the tactics that have been taken by certain folks, [it’s] encouraged other folks.”

If those divisions worsen — like if conservatives make good on their threat to start blocking bills from coming to the floor — some centrist Republicans pointed out that would just increase their incentive to join forces with Democrats. Republicans openly shifting to that strategy would amount to a historic shift in House power dynamics.

“It just forces us to work with Democrats — these guys play checkers, they don’t play chess,” said centrist Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

Johnson, meanwhile, is attempting to steady a seesaw of competing demands from the various corners of his conference, all while getting acquainted with a job that is six ladder rungs above where he previously served in GOP leadership. It’s a nearly impossible role, even in normal circumstances, as McCarthy, Paul Ryan and John Boehner all demonstrated before him. Johnson likened it to drinking from “Niagara Falls for the last three weeks.”

One sign of success: Johnson staved off disaster on the floor on Tuesday in real time, talking down a group of conservatives who wanted to block a massive health, labor and education spending bill. The speaker’s pitch, according to Norman: He had a plan to jam the Democratic Senate and cut spending in the full-year funding legislation Congress now has to pass in January and February.

But House Freedom Caucus members, in a meeting attended by Johnson and another ultraconservative ally, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), said that they had their own strategy to make the Senate swallow spending cuts now rather than later. Johnson, clearly, chose to go another route.

“We were going to fight. We had a well-laid-out plan yesterday, had a senator there, who had it worked out where as Bill Posey said, ‘the hot potato was with the Senate,’” Norman said about the meeting. “If you are scared of getting wet, you might not swim.”

While I agree with Schumer that the particulars of the plan are “goofy,” averting the shutdown was the right and necessary thing to do.* The Freedom Caucus types are understandably frustrated that this preserves Pelosi era funding levels but it’s their own damn fault.

Pelosi was a master at the art of legislating, which requires a careful balance between knowing what the limits of the possible are, arm-twisting Members who are reluctant but can afford to cast a hard vote, while at the same time protecting Members who can’t from having to do so. Most of the Freedom Caucus Members, alas, have the parliamentary acumen of toddlers.

*Given that I’m a Federal employee (and, indeed, so is my wife), I must acknowledge my self-interest. But the fact of the matter is that we’ve got enough cash in reserve to get us through even a very long shutdown, so it amounts to a vacation for us. But, considering we’re going to get paid regardless, it seems only fitting that we earn our paychecks.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    A couple of observations:
    – Two times now the Republican Speaker has gone around the crazies and made a deal with Democrats. You know, in the way our government is actually intended to work. I’m hoping the universal rule-of-threes holds and if they do it one more time it will be the beginning of the end for the toxic Gingrich 50% + 1 vote era.
    – It’s astounding that the core attitude of The Freedom Caucus and dirtbags in the Senate like Tommy Tuberville doesn’t get more play: they are not even attempting to build a majority for their policies, craft legislation and get it made into an effective law, which is literally what their job is. Instead they are saying they are going to gum up the works and grind everything to a halt so other people will do their job for them.

  2. Scott says:

    My congressman, Chip Roy, is apoplectic. Unfortunately, our district is heavily gerrymandered (boundaries were even modified to bring his residence into the district) and he is free to rant and rave. He does a lot of media appearances rather than actually doing his job.

    I really don’t see the point in splitting the funding bill into two but whatever. Of course, just passing appropriations bills is splitting it into 12. Which is what they should be doing.

  3. Charley in Cleveland says:

    The Freedumb Caucus, echoing Trump, flatly states that their mission is to jam up the House with procedural hi-jinks. When a party makes it clear that it has no intention of governing responsibly – or at all – the nation’s media has been handed a front page story. One can quibble over whether reporting that is opinion or fact, but the intended 4th estate function of the press is defeated if this outrageous behavior is normalized or ignored.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    So the Toddler Caucus is throwing a tantrum? Hoocuddanowed?

    @Scott: I really don’t see the point in splitting the funding bill into two but whatever.

    I suspect it was to separate the “good”spending from the “bad” spending, the goal being to pass the former without cuts and imposing draconian cuts in the 2nd. That way the whole govt doesn’t shut down, just the parts that help the lazy moochers.

  5. Kevin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’d agree, but there are military related things in both groups, so …

  6. charontwo says:


    What if they do the military appropriations before Feb 2?

  7. Franklin says:


    But, considering we’re going to get paid regardless, it seems only fitting that we earn our paychecks.

    Indeed, that would make actual sense.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kevin: Which is the good military spending and which is the bad? 😉

    @Franklin: Indeed, that would make actual sense.

    Hence, the GOP’s opposition to it.

  9. gVOR10 says:

    I look at things like this and I like to picture the actors as black boxes and ask what the incentives acting on them are. Why are the Jordans and Gaetzes eager to fuck over the country? They’re getting money from Kochtopus types who want to defund SS and Medicare, but do they really want a shutdown? Jordan may be dumb enough to believe their anti-government ideology, but Gaetz strikes me as wholly opportunistic with no actual beliefs except in Brylcreem. Is there some way this leads to leadership, like Johnson? Gaetz may think this lines him up to run for FL Guv. What am I missing? Are they doing this just for the lulz and to impress their MAGA primary voters?

  10. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR10: I honestly think they believe if they’re obstructionist enough everyone will cave and give them the spending cuts they demand. That’s simply not how it works.

  11. gVOR10 says:

    @James Joyner: But my question is why those spending cuts? Are they really that bound by ideology? Are their Billionaire Boys Club donors demanding it? Do they think their primary voters, many of whom are on SA and Medicare, are that ideologically committed? Or is it just post-modern desire for the lulz and the clicks?

  12. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    They should be aware they can get some of the cuts they want if they compromise on other matters.

    They can shut down the government, but only for a time. If they decide to keep it shut down indefinitely, the process or what’s left of the government will have to work around them.

  13. Kevin says:

    @gVOR10: I’d be amazed if they’ve thought things down to that level. They have a number they want to make smaller. That most of that number is mandatory spending, and what it would take to make the number smaller, isn’t their problem. Everyone likes cutting the federal budget until you make them choose. “Waste, fraud and abuse,” of course.