Newly ensconced House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana has little time for settling in at his new leadership position as the budget fight looms as his biggest hurdle for the near future. But some reports are saying he has a secret plan to avoid a government shutdown.
The Republican Party, which has a scant majority in the House of Representatives, struggled to put one of their own in the speaker’s chair, of course.
Californian Republican Kevin McCarthy went through vote after vote and only finally succeeded to the office by agreeing to add a clause that allowed any member to call for his ouster at any time and force a floor vote. That provision eventually doomed his speakership in only nine months.
After he was voted out, a long list of candidates tried to gain the leadership position, but one-by-one failed to get the votes, even after several were touted as the “party nominee” for the job. Finally last month Johnson became a consensus candidate and won the seat.
While he has already proven popular among both parties, he is also faced with an extremely challenging budget battle, a battle that had been put off for months by the wrangling for the speaker’s chair.
The current budgeting law will sunset in a week, and that means there is no money approved to fund the government.
If you are unaware, the House of Representatives is responsible for originating all government budget bills. Once approved in the lower chamber, they go to the Senate where they either approve it, or send it back for changes.
When both houses finally sign onto it, the bill goes to the president’s desk to be signed into law and to fund the government.
The founders devised this process because they wanted to avoid the practices of other countries where government was automatically funded long-term. The founders thought automatic funding was a recipe for corruption and misappropriation. They would probably not be very excited about what we’ve since done to their system, regardless.
Of course, the budget bill fight is still an urgent issue. For reasons only the left-wing biased media can explain, a government shutdown always redounds hard against Republicans. And with the 2024 election less than a year away, Johnson is struggling to secure a budget win.
The problem is, Johnson’s caucus is fractured. The more hardcore, fiscal hawks in the GOP would not be all that upset by a government shutdown. But a larger number — but not large enough number — of Republicans want to avoid it. And Democrats are not interested at all in lending a hand. They are of a mind to let the GOP hang themselves.
Johnson has apparently offered a novel budget plan that is being called a “laddered” or “staggered” process, in which a series of smaller bills are put through targeting funding for specific sectors of government instead if one big bill addressing it all.
This idea has never been tried, but according to MSNBC’s Hayes Brown, it is being looked on favorably even by the conservatives.
Naturally, some in the Senate are already skeptical of the idea.
West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore said, “Having never heard of it before, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
And Republican Senator Collins of Maine was also skeptical, saying she has “a lot of reservations” about the idea. Democrat senator from Washington State Patty Murray was more blunt, saying, “That’s the craziest, stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
Johnson is also hamstrung by the “72-hour rule,” a rule that gives House members 72 hours to review any budget bill before being expected to vote on it. This makes his negotiations very tight.
To date, Johnson has enjoyed mostly positive reviews from House members of both parties. But this budget battle could mark a very quick end to the little honeymoon he has enjoyed.
So far, he has not revealed what these staggered bills will look like or what will be in them. This means he only has until Tuesday, at the latest to get them crafted and before legislators for that 72-hour look-see period. This leaves Johnson with very little room for error.
With his first few efforts as speaker, Johnson proved to be a conservative movement guy, now a wheeler and dealer free of a grounding in conservative principles.
But he has never faced a situation as delicate as this budget fight. It remains to be seen if he can stick to his principles and still get his “staggered” budget bills passed by a weary Congress.
The eyes of the country are on him and the stakes are high.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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