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Mike Johnson

A shutdown and SOTU week on deck for Congress

Congress will have a busy week trying to avoid a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday (FYI, there won’t be a shutdown) while President Joe Biden gives what will be a hugely important State of the Union address for the 81-year-old incumbent on Thursday.

There’s also Super Tuesday, which will pretty much cement former President Donald Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP nomination. Voters in 16 states and one territory head to the polls on the most important day of the primary so far.

Government Funding: House and Senate leaders unveiled a six-bill, $435 billion package (more with side deals) on Sunday afternoon. The text of the 1,050-page bill is here, and you can read summaries from both sides here, here and here. Here’s the list of earmarks.

The current plan is for this massive bill to be voted on Wednesday in the House, with the Senate to follow. As per usual, everything is tentative during this Congress, so stay tuned.

We don’t anticipate significant problems in the House at this point despite this package being taken up under suspension, meaning it needs a two-thirds majority to pass. The overwhelming majority of Democrats will vote for the package, which is the beginning of the end to more than five months of FY2024 funding drama. The real issue is how many House Republicans back it. Can Speaker Mike Johnson get a majority of the majority to vote for the package, and what happens if he doesn’t?

Overall, this bill is basically a spending freeze with some cuts. Veterans’ spending gets a big boost, one of the few areas that did. Democratic leaders pushed to add another $1 billion for the WIC program — which they got — and tried to protect their environmental and social spending from GOP riders.

With only a two-vote majority — meaning Johnson needs Democrats to pass anything — and working off a deal his predecessor cut, the speaker did about as well as he could, even though it took forever to get there. Republicans’ culture war provisions got dropped mostly, although there are some GOP wins. Conservatives will oppose this measure loudly, and there’ll be some rumbling about Johnson’s future, but he should be ok.

“House Republicans secured key conservative policy victories, rejected left-wing proposals, and imposed sharp cuts to agencies and programs critical to President Biden’s agenda,” Johnson said in a statement.

Yet some of the cuts Johnson is claiming aren’t quite as dramatic as they appear to be at first glance. They’re cuts, just not huge cuts.

For instance, House Republicans assert they cut the FBI’s budget by 7%. Yet the vast majority of that cut is because former Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) earmarked more than $600 million for an FBI building in Alabama the year before. Shelby isn’t around anymore, of course.

The FBI will get $32 million less for salaries and personnel than it did in FY2023 on a $10.6 billion budget, according to Democrats.

On EPA, House Republicans are taking credit for a 10% cut in funding. Congress appropriated $977 million less for EPA this year than was enacted in FY2023, chiefly because Superfund money is being slashed. That’s a big hit on a $9.1 billion budget.

However, EPA will get a bunch of money for the Superfund program out of the 2021 infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act. Superfund spending actually goes up by nearly $1.8 billion.

Both sides are spinning hard here. This is a compromise bill that no one loves but which both sides can live with — mostly.

Ukraine aid: Publicly, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and his lieutenants continue to insist the House should take up the $95 billion Senate-passed foreign aid bill for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific.

But with two discharge petitions readying for signatures this week — one from Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the other from Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) — Democratic leaders are moving cautiously here.

Remember, Fitzpatrick and Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) introduced a $66 billion foreign aid bill last month that includes tens of billions of dollars for Ukraine.

But the proposal also includes some border security provisions that are controversial among Democrats, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy. Meanwhile, many House Republicans — including Johnson — say they can’t support a Ukraine aid bill without border-related language.

Behind the scenes, Jeffries has been working quietly to find a solution that won’t enrage Hispanic and progressive members of his caucus while getting Ukraine the aid it desperately needs. Jeffries privately met with members including Fitzpatrick and Reps. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio) at the Munich Security Conference last month to discuss Ukraine aid.

And here’s some news: Jeffries told Johnson during the White House meeting last week that Democrats would help both in the Rules Committee and on the House floor to pass a rule if the speaker would put the Senate-passed aid bill on the floor.

A source familiar with the situation said, “The speaker ignored the remark.”

In the end, this all comes down to trust, which is in short supply in the Capitol right now. Can Democratic leadership work with Republican Ukraine hawks on a discharge petition that would force Johnson’s hand? Is there any way Johnson and House GOP leaders seek a deal with Democrats on this?

— John Bresnahan, Jake Sherman, Heather Caygle and Andrew Desiderio

Presented by The Coalition to Project American Jobs

It’s taking the IRS years to process a small business tax credit. 1M+ small business owners who filed for the Employee Retention Credit are stuck in backlog or waiting on payment for their claims. Tell the IRS to lift the moratorium now.

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