House passes GOP spending bill as Democrats shrug off ‘goofy’ laddered structure

The House voted 336-95 on Tuesday to fund the government through at least Jan. 19, though new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) had to rely on Democrats to send his spending bill to the Senate. Johnson, unable to get enough Republican votes to pass the legislation under normal rules, needed a two-thirds majority, or 288 votes. All but two Democrats voted for the stopgap bill; 93 Republicans voted against it. 

The Senate is expected to pass the continuing resolution before the government shuts down at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

When Johnson unveiled his bill on Saturday, it wasn’t clear Democrats would back it. The White House called his “laddered” approach — it funds 20% of the government through Jan. 19 and the other 80% through Feb. 2 — “unserious” and “a recipe for more Republican chaos and more shutdowns.” Once Democrats read the bill and saw it contained no spending cuts or right-wing policy riders, they came around to see it as the best option available to avoid a pre-Thanksgiving shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday he was “heartened — cautiously so” — that Johnson omitted “any terrible hard-right cuts,” even as he called the laddered approach “goofy.” Other Democrats called it “gimmicky.”

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Johnson’s predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was ousted by a handful of hardline Republicans after passing a similar stopgap bill by relying on Democratic votes. But hard-right conservatives, while voting against the package, seemed open to cutting Johnson a little slack. Johnson, meanwhile, argued that his laddered approach was “an important innovation” that ends the practice of passing “a massive omnibus spending bill right before Christmas,” a conservative bugaboo. 

And after a day in which one GOP senator tried to fist-fight a Teamster boss, a Republican committee chairman yelled that a Democratic colleague looked “like a Smurf,” and another House Republican accused McCarthy of sucker-punching him in the hallway, as USA Today recapped, Johnson said averting a government shutdown “will allow everybody to go home for a couple of days for Thanksgiving” and “cool off. Members have been here for 10 weeks.”

“We’re living in a world of crazy,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Poltiico, explaining his tepid support for Johnson’s bill. “At some point, you have to cut weird deals with arsonists. And that’s where we are.”