Buck Up Mike: Speaker Johnson Urged To Win This Time

Speaker Johnson Urged To Win This Time

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., meets with reporters following a closed-door GOP meeting, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Efforts to keep the government funded have hit another snag as conservative stalwarts stand their ground on including crucial policy changes within the spending legislation. With the Friday deadline for government funding fast approaching, tensions are simmering, heightening the specter of a partial government shutdown which has members of both parties expressing their dismay.

Despite hopes for a bipartisan breakthrough over the weekend, leaders in Congress were unable to bring forth the much-anticipated compromise spending bills, missing a critical Sunday target date and casting uncertainty on how to advance mere days before the deadline looms large.

In the House, conservative stalwarts, acting in the interests of fiscal responsibility and policy assertiveness, are holding tough conversations with Speaker Mike Johnson. They’re pushing for strategic use of the budget process to secure pivotal policy concessions from Democratic counterparts – an assertive move following frustration with two prior spending agreements negotiated by the Speaker with cross-party cooperation, which had irked steadfast Conservatives.

The critical Fiscal Responsibility Act dictates that without all 12 appropriations bills sealed by April’s end, federal spending faces significant cuts. Against this backdrop, Conservatives believe that the Republican Conference, under Johnson’s leadership, is missing valuable opportunities to achieve policy victories.

This impasse puts Speaker Johnson at a tough crossroads – yield to Conservative principles and face the potential risks of a government shutdown, which could be laden with political risks for the GOP, or reach across the aisle to Democrats for a spending compromise, risking the ire of the Conservative base.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), acknowledging the detrimental impact a shutdown would have on the nation, made a clarion call for unity among lawmakers to circumvent any hiatus in funding.

“The need of the hour is clear — steer clear of policy divides and unite towards passing clean appropriations. Time is short, yet sufficient for us to prevent a shutdown and to advance our annual appropriations, provided we all pull in the same direction,” implored McConnell.

A stopgap measure passed last month temporarily continued funding through March 1 for several key agencies and programs spanning military construction and water projects, as well as the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. However, the clock is ticking as funding for the remaining eight spending bills is slated to lapse on March 8.