House Republicans are pursuing a two-step plan to fund the government, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN, as Congress heads toward another spending deadline Friday.
Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson announced the plan during a conference call with GOP members Saturday afternoon and maintained, “I was not the architect of the mess we find ourselves in ”, according to a source present on the call.
Although Johnson welcomed the right-wing members of his conference by proposing a two-step approach, he did not fully give in to their wishes. The plan does not include significant spending cuts called for by his right flank, but instead extends funding to current levels.
“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to put House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories,” Johnson said in a statement Saturday.
The first bill would extend funding until Jan. 19 and include funding for military construction, Veterans Affairs, transportation, housing and the Department of Energy. The second part of the bill, which would extend funding until February 2, would include funding for the rest of the government.
Neither bill provides additional aid for Israel or Ukraine.
The two-step approach has been widely advocated by Republican hard-liners, but rejected by many senators as a complicated solution that is difficult to implement. Still, because agency funding would remain at current levels, it could be harder for Democrats to reject.
An aide to Senate Democratic leadership signaled openness to Johnson’s funding plan, telling CNN: “It’s good that the president didn’t include unnecessary cuts and kept defense funding with the second group of programs. »
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, however, framed Johnson’s plan as “a recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns — period.”
“House Republicans must stop wasting time on their own political divisions, do their jobs and work in a bipartisan manner to avoid a shutdown,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
Before Saturday’s conference call, Republicans had considered several options, including a simpler stopgap bill with some sweeteners added as well as the more complicated two-step approach proposed by Johnson.
The conference was split on which option to pursue, with appropriators favoring a “clean” interim bill and members of the Freedom Caucus pushing for the phased approach.
Yet Republican Rep. Chip Roy, who is part of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said on X that he was against Johnson’s plan because it did not include the deep spending cuts desired by the right.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries previously criticized the prospect of a two-step continuing resolution as a failure, calling it “a right-wing spree that would crash and burn the economy.”
For the bill to be approved by a majority vote in the House, Johnson will first need to get a rule approved to set the parameters for a floor debate. But because the minority party typically votes against the rule at the same time, Johnson can only afford to lose four Republicans in approving it. It’s unclear whether Republican hardliners will give him a honeymoon and vote for the rule while they oppose the underlying bill.
If they fail to adopt a rule, it must be adopted under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority. That means it would take a large number of Democrats to approve the bill.
GOP leadership sources say they have not made a decision on how to proceed.
For now, Democrats are privately criticizing Johnson’s strategy, saying keeping the government open in two stages is untenable. But they also acknowledge that Johnson avoided cutting spending, which was their red line.
The big question: How many Democrats will ultimately support the plan? The answer could unlock the GOP’s floor strategy.
If lawmakers fail to pass a spending plan by Friday, many government operations will be halted until Congress acts. However, government functions deemed essential will continue.
Each federal agency develops a contingency plan that describes which of its functions will continue during a shutdown, as well as how many of its employees will continue to work and how many will be furloughed until the shutdown ends.
Nationally, state shutdowns can have significant economic consequences, hindering growth and fostering uncertainty, especially if they are prolonged. Some of these costs include increasing the unemployment rate, decreasing gross domestic product growth, and increasing the cost of borrowing.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Shania Shelton contributed to this report.