Top US House Republican Johnson stands by bipartisan spending deal

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Republican U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson on Friday stood by a $1.59 trillion spending deal with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, defying hardline conservatives who had pressured him to scrap it in favor of lower spending and new border restrictions.

Two days after a dozen hardliners from his own party shut down legislative business on the House of Representatives floor in protest, Johnson said lawmakers would move forward to implement the deal with “a robust appropriations process,” as Congress seeks to avert a partial government shutdown after funding for some federal agencies expires next Friday.

“Our top-line agreement remains. We are getting our next steps together,” said Johnson, referring to the deal reached on Sunday. “So, stay tuned for all that.”

Johnson’s comments indicated that he and his Republican leadership team would seek to circumvent hardline opposition as they work to keep the government open and avoid political chaos at the start of the 2024 presidential campaign, which begins on Monday with the Iowa Caucus.

On Thursday, Schumer took the first procedural step to pass a stopgap funding bill, known as a “continuing resolution” or “CR,” through the Senate early next week to give lawmakers more time to pass the full-year bill.

Johnson did not mention a stopgap measure in his remarks. But centrist Republicans who met with him on Friday said a month-long CR could be necessary.

Hardline Republicans, some of whom have threatened to oust Johnson over the bipartisan deal, offered only muted reaction.

“It’s a bad move,” said Representative Byron Donalds of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose members huddled with Johnson for hours on Wednesday and later seemed hopeful that he could revise the deal in their favor.

Donalds and fellow conservative Representative Kat Cammack told reporters they would now focus on attaching restrictions on U.S.-Mexico border crossings to spending legislation.

Separately, firebrand Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene raised the possibility of ousting Johnson from the speakership over funding for Ukraine, which she ardently opposes.

“I will never support it. I’ll fight it as much as possible. Even if I have to go so far to vacate the chair and there’s others that agree with me,” she said.

Johnson made his remarks after meeting with a friendlier crowd on Friday: centrist Republicans who back his bipartisan agreement with Schumer.

Centrist Republicans also had little tolerance for hardline Republicans and their behavior.

“We’ve got 10 or 12 loudmouths who try to take over the whole conference,” Representative Don Bacon told reporters. “We’re tired of it … We’re ready to govern.”

(Reporting by David Morgan in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Katharine Jackson and Makini Brice in WashingtonEditing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)


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