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Mike Johnson

Johnson’s big test

Government funding runs out after Nov. 17. The chances of a shutdown are low, but this week will be full of drama between the two parties and two chambers — plus the White House — over how to deal with this situation. Even keeping the lights on has proven to be tedious work in the 118th Congress, one of the key reasons Moody’s moved on Friday to downgrade its outlook on the U.S. government’s credit rating.

After weeks of conversations about changing the way Washington works, Speaker Mike Johnson will seek to pass a complex “clean” stopgap funding bill Tuesday that maintains the status quo. The House Rules Committee will meet this afternoon to take up the 32-page bill.

The Rules hearing will be watched closely, especially how a trio of hardline conservatives on the panel vote. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), one of those members, has already said he’s opposed to Johnson’s proposal. If successful in Rules, Johnson and GOP leaders will have to pass the rule on the floor, another major challenge. The full House is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday.

Overall, Johnson’s proposal is basically the same approach that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was booted for — a clean CR at current funding levels. And he’ll need Democrats to help pass it. But that’s the strategy Johnson decided on following extensive meetings with Republicans from across his conference.

The scheme Johnson proposed is this — the House will seek to extend government funding until Jan. 19 for four spending bills: Agriculture, Energy and Water, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD.

Funding for the rest of the federal government — the eight remaining bills — will be extended until Feb. 2.

What’s notable is what has been left out of this package: money for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and any extension of FISA surveillance authority. So, there will still be a year-end and first-quarter 2024 legislative crunch.

House GOP leaders also want to hold floor votes this week on the Labor-HHS and Commerce-Justice-Science funding bills — two of the most controversial annual spending measures — as well as the Transportation-HUD package, which was pulled from consideration last week.

Johnson said on Sunday he “will not allow end-of-year megabus spending packages to continue under my leadership.”

Some hardline conservatives have already come out against Johnson’s CR plan in addition to Roy, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Senior Democrats and the White House are bashing it, too.

We’ll note, however, that House Democratic leaders haven’t formally said they’ll recommend a vote against it. Remember: If more Democrats end up voting for this bill than Republicans, Johnson is in trouble.

What we’ve heard from Democrats is this — it could’ve been worse. And they don’t see Johnson’s move as picking a fight with Democrats as he did with the Israel aid bill, when the speaker attached a poison-pill spending cut that he knew would be a non-starter.

To be sure, Democrats don’t like the “laddered CR” approach, as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, noted. Democrats also don’t like that it doesn’t include Ukraine or Israel funding. Every day that Ukraine money doesn’t get passed makes it less likely that country will get additional U.S. aid. More on this below.

Yet there’s no obvious poison pill in the proposal, either. Democratic leaders’ initial reaction wasn’t to take a whack at it. In fact, a Senate Democratic leadership aide said it was “a good thing” that the House’s CR plan doesn’t include spending cuts, and that the Pentagon spending portion is grouped in with the second tranche of bills. Plus, the “ladder” only has two funding deadlines just weeks apart.

Put simply, nobody wants a shutdown, especially right before Thanksgiving. So the Senate is waiting to see if the House can pass Johnson’s proposal.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote this evening on the legislative vehicle for its own CR proposal. It’s unclear whether Republicans will provide the necessary votes for this without some sort of clarity on what it will look like.

The supplemental: It’s nearly certain that the multi-billion dollar national security supplemental package requested by President Joe Biden won’t get through the Senate before the Nov. 17 deadline. That means punting on the measure until after Thanksgiving.

The delay stems from Senate Republicans’ demand for stringent border provisions as a condition for advancing a foreign-aid package that includes funding for Ukraine.

The bipartisan group leading the border talks worked through the weekend, we’re told, and is nearing a decision on whether there’s enough of a consensus to attach proposed policy changes to the supplemental.

Money news: The Congressional Leadership Fund and American Action Network — the House GOP leadership-linked outside groups — have brought in $16 million in the 10 days since Johnson started raising money.

This is a big haul and a sign of early support that should help alleviate the concerns that the Louisiana Republican will be a poor fundraiser — especially among front-line Republicans who are most vulnerable. Furthermore, it highlights the durability of the political apparatus that McCarthy built.

For your planning purposes: Rep.-elect Gabe Amo (D-R.I.) will be sworn in tonight, bringing House Democrats back up to 213 members. There are currently 221 House Republicans. Utah’s 2nd District will hold a special election on Nov. 21.

— John Bresnahan, Andrew Desiderio and Jake Sherman

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