With partial government shutdown a week away, Johnson says he’ll stick to spending deal

By: - January 12, 2024 9:38 am

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, reads a statement about government spending to reporters inside the Capitol building on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson committed Friday to following the topline spending agreement he struck with Democrats less than a week ago, following a day of speculation that he was preparing to walk away from the deal.

“Our top line agreement remains,” Johnson said in a statement to reporters just off the House floor. “We are getting our next steps together. And we are working toward a robust appropriations process, so stay tuned for all of that.”

Johnson didn’t take questions about negotiations on the dozen annual spending bills or whether he’ll support Congress using another stopgap spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown on Jan. 19, when funding expires for some federal departments and agencies.

The Louisiana Republican did say in his statement that “in keeping up with my commitment to bring members into the legislative process, I’ve spoken and received feedback this week from many members all across the Republican Conference.”

“That’s a very important part of this,” Johnson added. “When I became speaker, I committed to decentralizing the speaker’s office and making this a member-driven process.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Johnson announced Sunday that they’d reached agreement on total spending levels for the fiscal year that began back on Oct. 1.

That agreement includes $886.3 billion in defense spending and $772.7 billion domestic spending for fiscal year 2024, though both chambers of Congress still have to work out agreement on the 12 annual appropriations bills.

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the Biden administration brokered a separate but extremely similar agreement last summer that was approved within the debt limit law. But conservative Republicans later removed McCarthy from the speaker’s office over that and over grievances.

Several especially conservative Republicans have been calling for Johnson to set aside, renegotiate, or somehow sweeten the current topline agreement all week.

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green said after leaving the speaker’s office Friday morning that while she doesn’t like the topline spending levels, she’s focused on how much conservative policy the GOP can insert in the annual spending bills.

“It’s not about a topline spending number. It’s about how our money is spent,” Greene said. “The American people are sick and tired of paying for garbage and look at our country. Look at the result.”

Greene also warned Johnson about funding for Ukraine, which is moving on a track  separate from the annual government spending bills.

“We don’t have to trade $60 billion for Ukraine for our own country’s border security,” Greene said. “That is a failing, losing strategy and I will never support it. I’ll fight it as much as possible. Even if I have to go so far to vacate the chair, there’s others that agree with me.”

In the House, any one lawmaker can force a vote to remove the speaker from office through the so-called motion to vacate. That’s the same process that Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz used last year to remove McCarthy from that leadership position.

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.

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