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It’s shutdown week. Johnson faces big challenges

Part of the federal government is set to shut down on Friday. House and Senate leaders released a stopgap funding bill Sunday night that extends the government’s spending authority until March 1 and March 8.

In unveiling the plan to House Republicans, Speaker Mike Johnson and GOP leaders made it crystal clear that they won’t touch any border security and immigration deal coming out of the Senate. Lots more on this below.

The stopgap package is meant to give appropriators more time to write spending bills to adhere to the topline deal that Johnson cut with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. That deal is effectively the Fiscal Responsibility Act with some additional cuts — $16 billion — tacked on for this fiscal year. It will be a challenge for House and Senate appropriators to draft and pass all 12 bills in the 40-something extra days this CR affords them.

This CR is otherwise pretty straightforward. It extends the shutdown deadline until March 1 for the Agriculture, Energy and Water, MilCon-VA and Transportation-HUD spending bills. Funding for the remaining federal agencies expires on March 8.

There was some grumbling during Sunday night’s House GOP call, and the House Freedom Caucus is already opposed, of course:

Here are a few dynamics we will be watching for this week.

Senate challenges: First, the funding bill will start in the Senate. Schumer has filed cloture on the legislative vehicle on which the CR will ride. That vote will happen Tuesday. Schumer will then move to substitute this CR.

If senators take up all the available time, that will extend this process into the weekend. Nodding to the tight timeline, Schumer said this in a statement Sunday evening: “To avoid a shutdown, it will take bipartisan cooperation in the Senate and the House to quickly pass the CR and send it to the President’s desk before Friday’s funding deadline.”

House challenges: We’re all aware of all the challenges in the House. Johnson spent last week huddling with hardline GOP conservatives who want him to abandon the spending deal he just made with Schumer. Johnson has been speaker for less than three months and sometimes it’s hard to discern what he’s doing. Hardliners thought he was open to abandoning the spending deal. Johnson later announced that the “topline agreement remains.”

Johnson’s challenge this week will be multifaceted.

First, the speaker has to again convince the right flank of the House Republican Conference that this delay allows him to fight for the inclusion of conservative policy riders in the annual spending bills. In reality, this is nothing more than a delay tactic because the Senate, House and White House Democrats are never going to accept any meaningful policy changes. And since Johnson needs House Democratic votes to pass the CR and avoid a shutdown, he’s at their mercy.

Here’s what Johnson said in a statement regarding the CR:

Second, Johnson has to corral a decent number of Republican votes for this CR. We expect nearly every House Democrat to vote yes. It’s a clean CR that gives Republicans nothing, so why wouldn’t they?

Johnson is going to have to bring this bill to the floor under suspension, a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority vote for passage. If every House Democrat votes yes, Johnson has to put up 77 Republican votes. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the dean of the House, is expected to miss the week due to a car accident over the weekend, giving Republicans a 218-213 margin.

But Johnson will want to put up closer to 110 votes, which represents half of the House Republican Conference. This will take a big push.

Looking ahead: Now, let’s project into the future a bit. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address is scheduled for March 7, just six days after the first funding deadline and one day before the second. We’ll have to see if the SOTU will be delayed because of a government shutdown.

Many House Republicans are already insisting on border security and immigration legislation as part of the funding bill. With the Senate’s border security proposal already as good as dead, government funding bills become the main vehicle for all policy dreams.

Two more things: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said on Sunday’s call that the House is still moving forward with a contempt vote against Hunter Biden this week. We’ve got more on this below. Also: With a snowstorm expected in D.C. tonight, votes Tuesday could be canceled. We’ll stay on this.

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