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As a shutdown looms, Johnson gets real about funding leverage

During a private conference call on Friday night, Speaker Mike Johnson conveyed to House Republicans that their lack of unity has weakened their position against Democrats as the government shutdown deadline looms next week. Johnson, along with the top Republican negotiators on funding in the House, intends to spend the weekend working towards a final agreement with Democrats on the first four spending bills set to expire on March 1, just a week away. However, Johnson acknowledged that the discord within the Republican caucus, where some members routinely obstruct GOP measures, hinders their negotiating leverage.

Despite the challenges, Johnson expressed optimism about meeting the deadline for passing the initial four bills, which cover funding for the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs. Yet, he also acknowledged the possibility of a partial government shutdown due to the significant disagreements still unresolved in spending talks.

Congressional leaders aim to announce a deal as early as Sunday night, potentially including a package of some or all of the expiring measures and a short-term funding extension to allow for further negotiations on the remaining bills. However, reaching a consensus on the larger funding issues presents a considerable challenge.

Johnson’s call for unity comes amid pressure from conservatives within the party who advocate for deep cuts to non-defense programs. Representative Chip Roy from Texas urged Johnson to pursue a funding strategy that would involve a stopgap measure until the end of the fiscal year. However, such a move could trigger cuts to domestic programs and result in the loss of billions of dollars in defense funding negotiated in the spending agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Overall, the ongoing negotiations underscore the complexities and divisions within Congress as leaders strive to avoid a government shutdown and reach consensus on funding priorities.

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