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Speaker Johnson’s strategy to avoid a government shutdown under scrutiny by GOP colleagues

By Rachel Schilke and Cami Mondeaux

House Speaker Mike Johnson‘s move to advance a two-part continuing resolution on Thursday drew mixed reviews from GOP members who are frustrated with infighting as they stared down a partial government shutdown.

Hard-line conservatives are reserving any animosity toward Johnson, appearing to come to terms with the fact that they won’t achieve their desired one-year stopgap bill. Instead, the deadline for the first six appropriations bills will be extended until March 8, and the remaining six will be moved to March 22.

The first six appropriations bills are expected to be advanced as a package and enacted by the first date, according to congressional leaders, despite pushback from some conservatives that the bills must be voted on one by one. 

Other members argued that “kicking this can down the road” doesn’t solve the problem, but they are less inclined to blame Johnson or House leaders for choosing to extend the CR — and it doesn’t appear that a motion to vacate is being discussed, the path taken to oust Kevin McCarthy when he was in a similar position.

“This is the House Republicans coming to terms with reality,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) said Thursday. “He is making the inevitable decision that was clear in September. It was clear in November, December, and it’s been clear for months that this is the outcome.”

When asked if the stopgap is Johnson standing up to his right flank, McHenry said the speaker is “doing what you’re supposed to do: bank the wins you can get with the power that you have.” 

Johnson and GOP leaders faced several options to avoid a shutdown on Friday, with any option likely to garner opposition from conservative Republicans such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Chip Roy (R-TX), who are staunch adversaries to continuing resolutions. 

House Freedom Caucus members and other hard-line conservatives have already expressed that the continuous passage of CRs is testing their patience. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who aligns with the GOP right flank but is no longer a member of the Freedom Caucus, said she is not voting for the CR and called the situation “really pathetic.” 

“I actually think it’s really pathetic that our conference — well, eight of our Republicans and all the Democrats, threw out our speaker. We didn’t vote on another appropriation bill since October, not one. We passed two CRs.” 

“Somebody came up with the idiotic idea to make two deadlines instead of one. And now we got to pass another CR,” Greene continued — knocking Johnson, who proposed the two-step CR in November.

Many Republicans are adamant that delaying the problem only creates more problems in the long run. 

“Not standing up for America today so you can surrender tomorrow doesn’t advance America’s goals,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern (R-OK) admitted the GOP keeps “kicking this can down the road” but thinks Johnson is doing the best he can.

“He’s been trying to meet with the president for weeks now, he said. “And for the president to meet with him at the last minute and basically have a, you know, basically five against one, it’s kind of the challenge.”

The Freedom Caucus had pitched a yearlong stopgap spending bill with 1% spending cuts across the board if a funding agreement did not include policies such as defunding the Pentagon abortion policy or prohibiting funding for gun registries. Greene blasted the Freedom Caucus as hypocrites for their funding plan.

“I used to call all the House of Representatives, the ‘House of Hypocrites,’” Greene said. “And that was under Pelosi. And now I have decided that you know what? Now it’s still the House of Hypocrites, only it’s under Republicans.”

Other members are blaming the party infighting, and not Johnson, for the multiple CRs.

“We would have had all 12 appropriations bills passed in the House if it wasn’t for this chaos caucus,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) said, referring to conservatives shooting down legislation as a method of rebellion against GOP leadership.

Still, some Freedom Caucus members are trying to maintain a “glass half full” perspective. Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) said he wishes Johnson had been more decisive and pushed Biden and the other congressional leaders to say, “We’re not moving this stuff until we’ve funded our country.” 

“He at least hasn’t gone along with apparently the consensus from the Senate, and some others in the House,” Davidson said. “So, you know, surrender now with a promise to fight later isn’t new or novel, but at least it’s not surrender yet.” 

He said he still doesn’t support the CR, but it isn’t a “full embrace” of what Democrats wanted.

“On the other side, it’s not what I want either,” Davidson said. “It’s kind of, you know, just another delay. At some point, the delay of game penalties add up. I think the big thing people lose sight of is, you know, a CR is a continuation of not just the funding, but the policies.” 

“It should be, to me, earth-shattering news that Republicans are going along with stuff they said they rejected just a year ago,” Davidson added. 

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