New Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is off to a wobbly start in his first, short week of being in charge of a legislative body, and he’s bringing some really bad ideas that aren’t going to improve things. For a very good part of Wednesday, leadership didn’t know if they had the votes they needed to pass the Legislative Branch appropriations bill scheduled for the day. It probably didn’t help that Johnson’s very first daily management meeting as speaker didn’t happen until 4:00 PM ET.
He got past that hurdle with help from four Democrats, and the evening progressed with no one being censured or expelled when a bipartisan group killed the resolution against Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democrats withdrew their resolution to censure Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and a majority decided to let the Ethics Committee finish their work with New York Republican Rep. George Santos before they move to expel him.
Buoyed by those minor victories, Johnson came out swinging Thursday. He once again put $14 billion in funding for Israel in jeopardy, saying that it can only happen if the money is offset with the IRS cuts he’s demanding. Never mind that the Congressional Budget Office says that will increase the deficit, and never mind that requiring budget cuts to provide assistance sets a dangerous precedent for providing emergency foreign aid. As of press time, the Israel aid package vote was scheduled for Thursday, but with a bunch of GOP members traipsing off to attend a Donald Trump rally, it might be pulled.
The danger of putting spending restrictions on foreign aid is also a big threat to Ukraine assistance. Punchbowl News reports that Johnson has “softened” in his opposition to the aid, “privately telling people he is in favor of sending more cash to the Ukrainians.” (Presumably, he’s giving those assurances privately because if he says it out loud, the Putin contingent in the GOP will skewer him.) But setting the precedent of requiring offsets with Israel would make finding more than $60 billion for Ukraine somewhere else in the budget nearly impossible. That’s too big of a sum and would cut into too many programs that even Republicans prioritize.
Johnson wasn’t finished with his terrible ideas. In his Thursday morning press conference, he floated the idea of having a “laddered” continuing resolution, which he explained as a temporary funding bill that “extends individual pieces of the appropriations process, individual bills.”
What that means in practice is rolling mini-government shutdown threats—some agencies would be funded, some wouldn’t. It would mean chaos as lawmakers fought over which pieces of the government they were going to fund and which they would let wither for as long as it took appropriations to be completed. It’s not clear that this proposal is even logistically possible, and it’s very likely politically impossible given the GOP’s tiny majority. Democrats aren’t likely to jump on board to help him out on this one.
“I don’t understand what a laddered CR is. Some agencies are in better standing apparently, according to the House Republican Conference,” Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar said in response to the proposal. “I don’t think that that’s a plan that’s pretty baked from the perspective of the Appropriations Committee. I don’t think that is grounded in much reality.”
Election Day is finally here! Joining us on “The Downballot” this week to preview all the key contests is Daily Kos Elections editor Jeff Singer, who has the goods on races big and small. Singer kicks us off by getting us up to speed on the battles for governor in Kentucky and Mississippi, two conservative Southern states where it’s Republicans who are acting worried. Then it’s on to major fights in Pennsylvania, where a vacant state Supreme Court seat is in play, and Ohio, where an amendment to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution is on the ballot.