Republican US House Speaker Johnson is closing in on whether to avoid a government shutdown


Written by David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – House Speaker Mike Johnson told key Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday that he would decide within the next two days on a course to avoid a potential government shutdown, lawmakers said.

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

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

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

“The Speaker of the House said, you know, he would make a decision by the end of the week,” another Appropriations Committee member, Rep. Andy Harris, told reporters.

Republican lawmakers said Johnson needs to make a quick decision to ensure the House can vote on the temporary measure, known as a continuing resolution or “CR,” by Tuesday, citing a House rule that requires legislation to undergo a 72-hour review period before voting begins. .

“He has to decide within 24 hours, because then you have to write a CR and then you have to put it out there,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, another Republican.

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

Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted on October 3, days after Republicans failed to agree on a temporary measure and had to rely on Democratic support to avoid an October 1 shutdown.

Johnson, 51, a relative novice in leadership politics with few political enemies, still enjoys goodwill within the divided House Republican caucus.

But the Louisiana Republican has come under sustained pressure from hardline conservatives who support an unconventional measure aimed at pressuring the House and Senate to reach a compromise by mid-January on full-year funding for fiscal year 2024.

“There is growing agreement that a peaceful approach… may be the solution that gets us to 217 votes at the conference,” said Harris, who was the first to propose the idea.

Other Republicans say a short-term funding measure that includes unconventional features or conservative policies could risk a partial government shutdown by forcing negotiations with the Senate over time.

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

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

“We are hopeful that we can reach a bipartisan agreement to move forward as quickly as possible,” the New York Democrat told reporters.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

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