Avoiding Government Shutdown: House Speaker Mike Johnson Faces Critical Test

Kayra Reven

WASHINGTON — With the looming threat of a government shutdown at week’s end, all eyes are on House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who faces the challenging task of shepherding a stopgap funding bill through the House.

The proposed two-step “ladder” continuing resolution, championed by House Republican leaders, aims to secure bipartisan support by funding certain government sectors until January 19 and others until February 2. Notably, the plan excludes budget cuts and aid for Israel in its conflict with Hamas. The strategy is to sidestep a potentially divisive vote on a larger spending bill just before the holiday season, a concern voiced by many GOP lawmakers. However, the plan has met criticism from both sides of the aisle.

The lack of consensus within Republican ranks on these spending bills poses a significant challenge for Johnson, whose speakership is still in its early stages. Importantly, the passing of a bipartisan stopgap measure was a contributing factor to the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in October.

Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz criticized the continuing resolution, characterizing it as being driven by the “irresponsible” House Freedom Caucus. She emphasized that it postpones addressing critical domestic and international challenges until the following year, expressing concern about leaving the State and Defense Departments “inadequately resourced” until February, particularly as global democracies face increasing threats.

Republican Representative Chip Roy echoed these concerns, stating that voting for a clean bill without budget cuts or “meaningful” policy changes would result in more debt and funding for tyranny.

The current version of the bill excludes funding requested by the White House for the U.S.-Mexico border and aid for Ukraine, raising further contention.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre criticized the Republican plan, labeling it a “recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns—full stop.” Jean-Pierre urged House Republicans to set aside political divisions and work in a bipartisan manner to avert a shutdown.

In response, Johnson defended the continuing resolution, asserting that it positions House Republicans “in the best position to fight for conservative victories” by separating it from debates over supplemental funding.

If the bill secures approval, funding for crucial areas such as the Food and Drug Administration, military construction, veterans benefits, transportation, housing, urban development, agriculture, and energy and water programs would be extended until January 19. For all other federal operations, funding would expire on February 2. The looming vote is scheduled for Tuesday, adding anticipation and uncertainty to the political landscape in Washington.