US Senate Republicans say stopgap needed to avert shutdown, potential problem for Johnson

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans said on Tuesday that a short-term funding measure will be needed to avert a partial federal government shutdown beginning in 10 days – a notion Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson could have trouble swallowing.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that lawmakers will “obviously” need a short-term continuing resolution, or “CR,” to allow bipartisan negotiators from both chambers time to agree on full-year 2024 spending bills and for Congress to enact the legislation.

“We’re going to have to pass a CR,” McConnell said. “We need to prevent a government shutdown.”

A short-term CR could put top House of Representatives Republican Johnson in a precarious position, after he pledged last year to oppose further short-term CRs, absent real progress on full-year funding and substantial policy reforms. His office was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Schumer and Johnson on Sunday agreed to $1.59 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2024, which began on Oct. 1.

Earlier on Tuesday, Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told reporters that lawmakers would most likely need a CR that lasts until sometime in March.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declined to answer a reporter’s question about the potential for a CR.

House and Senate appropriations committees have been unable to agree on the 12 annual bills needed to fund the government for fiscal 2024, because of disagreements over the total amount of money to be spent.

Under the current arrangement, funding will expire on Jan. 19 for federal programs involving transportation, housing, agriculture, energy, veterans and military construction. Funding for other parts of the government, including defense, will continue through Feb. 2.

The Schumer-Johnson deal is opposed by hardline Republicans in both the House and Senate, who wanted less spending and are pushing for policy changes, including restrictions on the U.S.-Mexico border.

McConnell attributed any opposition to a short-term CR in the House to a misunderstanding of the time-consuming parliamentary procedures the Senate must follow.

“The simplest things take a week in the Senate. So, I think frequently the House doesn’t understand how long it takes to get something through the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said.

(Reporting by David Morgan, additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)