House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., waits during a news briefing at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 2, 2023. Johnson said on Thursday he was considering rolling out a “laddered CR,” or continuing resolution.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., waits during a news briefing at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 2, 2023. Johnson said on Thursday he was considering rolling out a “laddered CR,” or continuing resolution. Alex Wong/Getty Images

House speaker pitches funding plan with rolling shutdown threats

Different agencies would face different shutdown deadlines under House GOP proposal.

Federal agencies could face an ongoing series of independent shutdown threats under a proposal put forward by House Republican leadership on Thursday, who pitched the idea with just more than two weeks until current funding expires. 

While details on the plan were not yet made clear, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said he was considering rolling out a “laddered CR,” or continuing resolution, that would create multiple stopgap bills that fund different parts of the government and have different end dates. Rather than the normal tact of keeping all agencies afloat under one short-term spending bill, the measures would be more narrowly focused and set up unique deadlines for each bill. 

Johnson reiterated he would like to see a CR through Jan. 15 with conditions that could include automatic funding cuts, but he was considering proposals from other Republicans. 

“I'll unpack for you what that means here in the coming days, but potentially that you would do a CR that extends individual pieces of the appropriations process, individual bills,” Johnson said.

Annual appropriations are split into 12 distinct bills, so Johnson could create a stopgap for each of those and set 12 different deadlines for when they expire. That would significantly complicate the funding process, forcing Congress to quickly tackle different measures to avoid shutting down parts of the government. It would also create significant headaches for agencies, which would face ongoing uncertainty and difficulties in coordinating with other parts of government. 

“We’ll see how that goes,” Johnson said. “I think we can build consensus around it.” 

Democrats quickly derided the idea, saying the proposal would not offer any benefit. 

“I don't know what a laddered CR does,” said Rep Pete Aguliar, D-Calif. “I don't think that that's a plan that's very baked from the perspective of the Appropriations Committee. I don't think that it is grounded in much reality.” 

Congress has multiple hurdles to clear before funding expires Nov. 17. In addition to regular funding, lawmakers are looking to address President Biden’s request for $106 billion in supplemental funding to support for foreign allies and boost resources at the border. House Republicans were set to approve a measure on Thursday evening that would provide $14 billion in aid only to Israel while slashing an equal amount of funding to the Internal Revenue Service. While Republican leadership suggested the IRS cuts would offset the spending for Israel, the provision would likely add to the deficit by reducing taxes the agency can collect. On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the IRS portion of the bill would reduce revenues by $26.8 billion over 10 years and lead to a net increase to the deficit of $12.5 billion.

Few Democrats were expected to back the measure, citing both the impact of the IRS cuts and the decoupling of the various aid packages. 

Johnson defended the decision, saying the IRS funding—part of the Inflation Reduction Act, signature Democratic climate, health care and tax law—was “sitting over there to refurbish, build up and hire new IRS agents.” 

“Right now, my belief is that this dire situation in Israel is so important that it's more immediate than that,” Johnson said. “And if Democrats in the Senate or the House or anyone else want to argue that hiring more IRS agents is more important than standing with Israel in this moment, I'm ready to have that debate.”