News

US Speaker unveils stopgap bid to avoid government shutdown

By AFP

November 12, 2023 10:34 AM


The Republican party on Saturday revealed an unconventional temporary plan to fund the US government, with little room to maneuver it through a deeply divided Congress just days ahead of a potential shutdown.

Mike Johnson, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, said the two-part move was "a necessary bill to place House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories."

US media reported that unusual play would see some bills needed to keep the government open passed via a short-term bill until January 19, while the rest would be rolled over until February 2.

It is aimed at buying Congress time to pass individual spending bills -- and does not provide funding for Israel, Ukraine and border security, according to the reports.

But with some Republicans already complaining that the plan does not make the funding cuts they seek it was unclear if the party, which has only a narrow majority in the House, would be able to pass it, much less the Democrat-controlled Senate.

"The bill will stop the absurd holiday-season omnibus tradition of massive, loaded-up spending bills introduced right before the Christmas recess," Johnson posted on X, formerly Twitter, without offering details.

"Separating out the CR from the supplemental funding debates places our conference in the best position to fight for fiscal responsibility, oversight over Ukraine aid, and meaningful policy changes at our Southern border," he continued.

Fellow Republican Chip Roy, of Texas, was among those quickly voicing dissent from the party's right, posting on X that his opposition to the plan "cannot be overstated" and complaining that it does not cut spending enough.

The White House slammed the proposal as "a recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns."

"House Republicans are wasting precious time with an unserious proposal that has been panned by members of both parties," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in the statement.

Federal government funding expires at midnight next Friday into Saturday.

Without an agreement by November 17, the world's largest economy will instantly begin pumping the brakes: 1.5 million government employees will go without pay, most federal facilities including national parks will be closed, and sectors such as air travel could be forced to slow down.

Washington is now well-acquainted with these last-minute battles over funding, and often finds a compromise just before the deadline, or shortly after.

But Johnson -- a little-known lawmaker from Louisiana with only limited leadership experience -- faces a delicate juggling act, balancing the demands of the small but influential group of hardline Republicans who want strict fiscal tightening, with Democrats who control both the Senate and White House.

The last time Congress faced a funding deadline, at the end of September, it was  plunged into chaos, with the unprecedented removal of Johnson's predecessor Kevin McCarthy by his own party.


AFP


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