Speaker Johnson Says He’ll Stand By Spending Pact, Daring Right Wing To Oppose Him

With a partial government shutdown looming and his conference divided, an embattled Mike Johnson is picking a side — again.
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House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Friday he intends to stand by a previously announced deal on the overall amount of money to be spent for most of the government this year, putting him at odds with spending hawks in his own party.

“In keeping with my commitment to bring members into the legislative process, I’ve spoken with and received feedback this week from many members all across the Republican conference,” Johnson told reporters in the U.S. Capitol.

“Our topline agreement remains,” he said. “We are getting our next steps together and we are working toward a robust appropriations process. So stay tuned for all of that to develop.”

Johnson’s announcement caps off a week of back-and-forth between him and his fellow House Republicans over a pact he reached with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Under that agreement, the so-called topline amount for spending on government agencies and programs outside of Social Security and Medicare in 2024 would total about $1.59 trillion.

While the amount is similar to the topline agreed to last year by Democrats and then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Johnson touted some changes in related agreements that would result in less spending, calling them improvements over the original deal.

The deal by itself does not guarantee there will be no government shutdown, but merely provides a common overall number that lawmakers must make individual spending bills fit into. Also, with some departments set to lose funding at midnight on Jan. 19, a stopgap bill will likely be necessary to keep those agencies’ lights on. Schumer has started down the procedural path to pass a temporary funding extension in the Senate.

But many foes of government spending have balked at the agreement, renewing talk that Johnson, who only ascended to the speakership in late October after McCarthy was ousted, could face his own challenge for the post.

In recent days, Johnson met with party members upset with the deal, as well as others who want to put the spending fight behind them ― leaving it unclear if he would withdraw from the deal or not. The uncertainty left many fellow Republicans upset.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) has said he would not rule out trying to oust Johnson because of the deal, and a dissident group of Republicans briefly kept Johnson from bringing bills to the floor this week as a warning shot. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a McCarthy ally, said Friday she might try to oust the speaker if he agrees to provide aid to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, another issue yet to be resolved.

On the other side, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that deals with financial services, complained to reporters Friday morning that he had not yet gotten a dollar figure to use to write a final bill.

But many House Republicans, mindful that ousting McCarthy cost them three weeks of House paralysis in October, seem inclined to grant Johnson some slack.

“He’s done a good job. He’s herding cats and we get that,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said on Thursday. “We trust what he says, which is a different thing from Kevin McCarthy.”

“I trust him a whole lot more than McCarthy,” Norman said. “Why do you think McCarthy’s not going to be speaker anymore? It’s trust.”

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