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The House GOP’s Weird Spending Plan

Two days ago, the House GOP unveiled its plan to prevent a government shutdown by passing what is being called a “laddered” Continuing Resolution.

Congress normally passes a continuing resolution or “CR” that serves as a short-term funding measure to keep the government operating while congressional leaders negotiate a longer deal. A CR freezes overall government funding at levels last passed into law.

A laddered CR is something we did not see during our many years in government, so we’ve been digging trying to figure out exactly how a laddered CR is going to work.

How is it going to work? In a word, weirdly.

According to Charlotte Hazard of Just the News, Speaker Mike Johnson’s is a continuing resolution (CR) that has two steps. The CR would have multiple spending bills needed to keep the government running on a short-term bill until January 19. The remaining bills would go on a CR until Feb. 2.

Republicans say the laddered CR would extend funding for all programs through multiple deadlines based on how much work it will take for both chambers to agree on funding for different programs.

In an interview with the New York Post, Speaker Johnson predicted Congress would likely avert a partial shutdown before federal funding expires at 11:59 p.m. ET Nov. 17 by passing a continuing resolution, followed by individual spending bills in which he’d like to see cuts even deeper than the 1% outlined in a June debt-ceiling deal brokered by the White House and Republicans led by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

“The 1% cut is good, but it’s not nearly enough,” Johnson said.

Still, with a continuing resolution in the works ahead of next week, “I think we’ll avoid a shutdown. I’ve been working around the clock, quite literally, for the last few days meeting with subgroups of members within my House Republican Conference,” he said.

“I’ve been at the table myself through these discussions. And I think that’s had the desired effect of showing the members that we’re serious about how we’re going to change the way Washington operates, how we do business here and this is a big part of that.”

“The idea, I think, is to stagger the CR so you’re not inviting or appearing to implicitly endorse an [omnibus] at any point,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) told The Hill last week.

No Midnight Christmas Eve Omnibus spending bill sounds like a great win, but is the laddered approach practical?

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), head of the subcommittee that oversees defense spending, said on Tuesday that he doesn’t “think it’s realistic” given opposition in the Democratic-led Senate, reported Aris Folley of The Hill.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the subcommittee that crafts funding for the housing and transportation programs, told The Hill on Tuesday that he agrees with Calvert, according to Folley’s report.

“His concern is to get to a deal. What he doesn’t want is a cascading government shutdown that ends up in the year-long CR,” Cole said, while emphasizing the need for defense programs to be funded “at a high level.”

“I get that. I’m with Calvert. He’s just trying to push us toward a deal where we don’t shut down the government and we fund defense at the appropriate level,” Cole told Mr. Folley.

“Congress has a hard time walking and chewing gum,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), another spending cardinal, also told The Hill on Tuesday. “How are we going to juggle multiple deadlines and different approaches?”

Now, in case you hadn’t already gotten a sense of where this is going, Mr. Folley of The Hill has the lowdown: Some Republicans have begun to discuss a “clean” CR that would simply extend existing funding across the government.

Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Tuesday that he would not support a clean CR.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be laddered, but there’s got to be something that takes you beyond Christmas, and there has to be something that you can take back home,” he said, naming potential add-ons like measures aimed at border security or establishing a debt commission.

“That you can say, ‘hey, we’re serious about fixing the problems of America,’ and those are the two biggest ones right there: An open border and uncontrolled bridled spending and debt,” he said according to Mr. Folley’s reporting.

Proposing a clean Continuing Resolution that maintained Nancy Pelosi’s bloated spending is one of the reasons a band of conservative rebels put in motion the ouster of now-former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. A “laddered” CR that does the same thing is likely to be a non-starter with them as well, although they are unlikely to move to oust Speaker Mike Johnson the way they ousted McCarthy.

The idea of a laddered CR is in keeping with Speaker Mike Johnson’s reputation for being a policy nerd – it is a weirdly interesting way to look like you are addressing the problem of not passing appropriations bills on schedule. However, to conservatives it is only acceptable if it results in harmonizing federal spending and income without raising taxes and addresses the border disaster and other policy issues.

The Capitol Switchboard is (202-224-3121), call today and tell your Representative and Senators you don’t care what approach they take to passing appropriations, you want them to – at a minimum – rein-in federal spending and address the border crisis.

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