Shutdown Week Kicks Off With Complete Chaos As Friday Deadline Approaches

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Feb 26, 2024 - 04:05 PM

With the Senate back in session today from the Presidents Day recess and the House returning on Wednesday, lawmakers will be racing to avoid a partial shutdown by Friday's funding deadline.

With leadership talks breaking down over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blamed House Republicans for the delay. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), however, blamed "new Democrat demands" for the impasse.

"While we had hoped to have legislation ready this weekend that would give ample time for members to review the text, it is clear now that House Republicans need more time to sort themselves out," Schumer wrote in a Sunday "Dear colleague" letter calling on Johnson to "step up to once again buck the extremists in his caucus and do the right thing."

Johnson hit back, saying Schumer's letter was full of "counterproductive rhetoric."

"Leader Schumer’s letter fails to mention that many of the points still being debated come from new Democrat demands that were not previously included in the Senate bills," Johnson said. "At a time of divided government, Senate Democrats are attempting at this late stage to spend on priorities that are farther left than what their chamber agreed upon."

On Tuesday morning, the "big four" leaders - Johnson, Schumer, along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, will convene at the White House with President Biden to discuss the shutdown and lobby Johnson to pass funding for Ukraine, Punchbowl News reports.

Johnson faces the same dilemma which resulted in the ouster of his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) - with the House Freedom Caucus insisting on spending cuts and border security, leaving Johnson with only one option: make a deal with Democrats that risks yet another ouster from the position.

Johnson's current solution is to try and pass a series of spending bills known as a "minibus," according to The Hill, which would, if successful, include the four due on Friday.

Punchbowl, which has an excellent track record on inside baseball in DC, suggests that while current disagreements shouldn't be insurmountable, Johnson - with the House Freedom Caucus at his neck, may be toying with a shutdown to give himself leverage in cutting a deal with Democrats that the Freedom Caucus is willing to accept.

With both sides saying progress was being made last week, congressional leaders had hoped to release text for the first four spending bills by Sunday night. These cover the Agriculture, Energy and Water, MilCon-Va and Transportation-HUD bills, the first tranche of annual appropriations under the “laddered” continuing resolution Johnson demanded last year.

But House GOP conservatives have refused to concede on anything. When Johnson said during a Friday night conference call with members that he wanted to do the first group of bills this week on the floor — meaning he would need Democratic help to pass them under suspension — there was strong pushback from Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and other hardliners. -Punchbowl News

"This is not a time for petty politics," Johnson said, adding that "the House has worked nonstop, and is continuing to work in good faith, to reach agreement with the Senate on compromise government funding bills in advance of the deadlines."