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If Congress can't agree on a plan, the government will shut down on Friday

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Government funding runs out on Friday if Congress cannot agree on a plan to keep the government open.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

And right now, that's a big if. Speaker Mike Johnson unveiled his short-term funding proposal on a call with Republicans yesterday, but that plan is already facing opposition from Democrats, as well as some of Johnson's fellow Republican lawmakers.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional reporter Eric McDaniel has been tracking these developments. Eric, good morning.

ERIC MCDANIEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: And it's great to have you here - former Up First podcast producer, now a congressional correspondent. So what is the speaker's proposal?

MCDANIEL: Well, like Leila said, it's another short-term funding bill. It's meant to buy folks more time to work out full annual budget bills over the next few months. But it funds some parts of the government, including the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Transportation through January 19 and funds the rest of the government, including the Defense Department, through February 2. So that two-tiered bill is a goal to pass, you know, more federal budget bills by the end of those deadlines - there are 12 of them - so they don't have to keep relying on short-term extensions, which really upset House conservatives.

INSKEEP: Yeah, but they're doing short-term extensions now with different deadlines. Why?

MCDANIEL: I mean, it's a pretty good question. It hasn't really been tried before. The proposal is mostly a gesture of goodwill to the Republican Party hard-liners in the House. These are the House Freedom Caucus. And it would give House Republicans more time than just a simple extension through, say, December to get the budget bills across the finish line. In the past, the House has gotten jammed with whatever big bipartisan bill the Senate proposes sometime in December and doesn't have time to change much.

But it's worth saying, you know, just like the short-term bill, passing the full-budget bills in the House won't be easy. Last week, they had to pull two bills just before voting because they didn't have enough Republican support to pass.

INSKEEP: Isn't a short-term bill like this the very thing that got Kevin McCarthy ousted as speaker of the House?

MCDANIEL: Yeah. And in fact, a lot of the folks who were upset about that short-term bill are also upset about this one. There are already at least three Republican defections. In fact, Speaker Mike Johnson himself was one of the 90 Republicans who voted against the last short-term bill. But now, of course, he's in leadership and spent the last week trying to cobble together a different approach, and we more or less ended up back where we started.

INSKEEP: OK, let's think this through. If Mike Johnson can't unite almost all Republicans, he would end up relying on Democrats, as Kevin McCarthy had to do. How have Democrats responded to all this maneuvering?

MCDANIEL: So the Biden administration called the proposal unserious. They accused House Republicans of wasting precious time, setting up a shutdown. Congressional Democrats are also pretty skeptical. Democratic lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee called the bill extreme and irresponsible. But it's worth noting here the proposal from Johnson could have been much, much more controversial. It doesn't contain any so-called poison pills or new conservative policy positions that would lead House Democrats to dismiss it out of hand. So there is a world in which this could pick up Democratic votes, which is great news for Johnson because, as you said, it appears he'll need them. The Senate hasn't proposed anything of its own yet. We should remember there's another chamber here. And obviously, time is running out. I'm sure I'll have more to share soon, though, because the House is set to vote on Johnson's funding bill tomorrow.

INSKEEP: You will be covering this story a lot. Eric, congratulations on the new gig.

MCDANIEL: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Eric McDaniel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.
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