McConnell backs Mike Johnson’s stopgap spending plan

November 14, 2023

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday backed a two-part stopgap spending plan proposed by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) over the weekend.

Johnson’s proposal extends funding for some government programs until January 19 while it continues to fund other programs until February 2.

Despite the plan’s absence of funding for Ukraine, which McConnell has backed tying to funding for Israel, the Senator praised Johnson’s bill on Monday as “a responsible measure that will keep the lights on, avoid a harmful lapse in federal spending” and allow Congress to complete work on annual spending bills over the next two months.

“I will continue to support the CR [continuing resolution] and encourage my colleagues to do the same thing,” McConnell said.

The Senate Republican leader’s embrace of the Speaker’s spending plan suggests that GOP leadership, at least, is united in efforts to avert a government shutdown when the clock strikes midnight on Friday. However, it remained in question whether Johnson can muster enough votes in the House, given many GOP hardliners are normally resistant to temporary stopgap plans. 

On social media Monday morning, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), Chair of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, wrote, “I will not support a status quo that fails to acknowledge fiscal irresponsibility, and changes absolutely nothing while emboldening a do-nothing Senate and a fiscally illiterate president.”

And in the Senate, some McConnell allies, including Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-ME), made it clear last week that they’re not in favor of breaking up funding into two separate measures with different deadlines. 

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been insistent that spending legislation should receive bipartisan support. So given that McConnell is on board with Johnson’s plan, it appears likely that Democratic leaders will go along with it, as well. 

In fact, Schumer has touted Johnson’s plan as a step in the right direction because it extends funding at current levels without including deep cuts that GOP conservatives had demanded.

“I am pleased that Speaker Johnson seems to be moving in our direction by advancing a CR that does not include the highly partisan cuts that Democrats have warned against,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) wrote in a letter to his colleagues that Democratic leadership was “carefully evaluating the proposal” and remained “concerned with the bifurcation of the continuing resolution in January and February 2024.”

According to a notice sent to lawmakers Monday evening, the full House would consider Johnson’s plan on the chamber floor on Tuesday. Under a House procedure known as the suspension of rules, the measure will bypass the Rules Committee—where Republicans had signaled they would not advance it—and while the bill cannot be amended, it requires a two-thirds majority to pass in the House.

It’s the same procedure that then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) used in September to pass the first stopgap measure that got Congress to this Friday’s looming deadline. McCarthy’s CR passed because more Democrats voted in favor of its passage than Republicans—which sparked McCarthy’s ousting and led to Johnson’s election to the Speakership. 

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