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Speaker Mike Johnson

Inside Johnson’s new spending plan

Congressional leaders have a deal to extend government funding until March 8 and March 22 – news we scooped Tuesday evening.

The House will vote today on a short-term CR that averts a shutdown by extending six bills until March 8: Energy and Water, Interior, Transportation-HUD, Commerce-Justice-Science, Milcon-VA and Agriculture. The deadline for passing the remaining six bills – including the Defense, Homeland Security and Labor-HHS bills – will be extended until March 22.

The House will leave town immediately after clearing the CR vote and will return next week. The Senate will try to pass the CR by unanimous consent tonight, which we expect to happen.

This was a plan hatched by Speaker Mike Johnson. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here because this movie is far from over. But let’s dig into Johnson’s play.

This was a savvy move by Johnson after months of head-scratching missteps and miscues. Johnson didn’t have a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to avert a shutdown this week. Johnson, though, didn’t want to pass another short-term CR without a plan because he was worried about a backlash from his own right wing. So he came up with a logical play on the CR and executed it. It will pass today.

In putting six negotiated spending bills on the floor next week and presumably the other six over the next few weeks, Johnson is finally standing up to the House Freedom Caucus. It has to be done, it was clear to every House member. Will it cost Johnson his job? Who knows. But at some point, a speaker needs to legislate with the majority of the conference. And that’s what Johnson is doing here.

But there are some tricky decisions still for Johnson and his leadership team.

The House needs to pass the six appropriations bills next week to avert a shutdown on March 8. These bills will all come to the floor under suspension of the rules.

Will Johnson package these bills together and pass them as a minibus, or whatever the leadership decides to call it? Hardline conservatives will hate this, but it may be necessary to save time and avert a shutdown.

By the middle of March, Johnson will be wrestling with the most difficult spending bills, including Defense, Homeland Security and Labor-HHS. Those will make these first six look like a cakewalk.

Fireworks: During an Elected Leadership Council meeting Wednesday evening, House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) got into a heated discussion over the hardliners’ legislative tactics.

Johnson effectively told Good that the House Republican Conference supports conservative legislation, but when it’s time for the Freedom Caucus to reciprocate and support leadership’s priorities, they take a pass and screw the speaker.

Good and Johnson emerged from the meeting together and Johnson said that the pair were “friends forever.”

– Jake Sherman

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.