President Mike Johnson said Friday he is standing by the spending deal he negotiated with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, rejecting demands from ultraconservatives who have pressured him to abandon the deal .
The announcement, after days of public silence about what he would do, virtually guaranteed that Mr. Johnson will have to work with Democrats in the coming days to pass a short-term bill to keep the government funded. beyond two deadlines in January. On February 19 and 2, he returned to his promise never again to mention new temporary spending measures.
Mr. Johnson faced growing pressure from far-right Republicans, angered by the bipartisan plan’s spending levels, to find an alternative. They began threatening to force a vote to oust the Louisiana Republican, subjecting him to the same fate as his predecessor.
But after a series of meetings with ultraconservative critics and politically vulnerable Republicans in swing districts who urged him to embrace compromise, Mr. Johnson said: “Our basic agreement remains. »
“After weeks of hard-fought negotiations, we have reached a strong agreement in principle,” he said, adding that Republicans had won concessions, including accelerating $10 billion in cuts in the IRS enforcement and recovery of $6 billion in unspent Covid dollars and other emergency measures. funds.
The announcement, which infuriated the far right, came minutes after a heated exchange on the House floor with members of the Freedom Caucus, many of whom had demanded he scrap the deal entirely in favor of deep spending cuts and refuses to fund more government without a tough crackdown on migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“My message is the same: We need to cut spending year after year, we need to secure the border,” Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said after the exchange. “We need border control combined with any spending deal to fund this government. We should not continue to finance this border invasion.”
The scene encapsulates the impasse Mr. Johnson finds himself in as he struggles to lead a divided Republican conference with a razor-thin majority — the same predicament that plagued his predecessor, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Mr. Johnson began the morning meeting with mainstream Republicans facing tough re-election races this year, who urged him to stick to the deal he negotiated with Democrats and said their voters could not sustain the kind of deep cuts the Freedom Caucus is demanding.
“We have 10 or 12 loudmouths trying to take over the entire conference,” said Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska, emerging from Mr. Johnson’s office. “We have to do what is good for the country. And the vast majority of us know that he negotiated – and the speaker before him negotiated – the best deal we could get.
“I think the speaker needed to hear that the vast majority of us are with him and we need to move on,” Mr. Bacon added. “Let’s do this.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, decided Thursday to plan action next week on a stopgap spending measure to give lawmakers and their staff time to translate the overall funding deal into 12 individual spending bills that can be passed and signed. law, a process that takes time. Lawmakers have not yet agreed on the duration of this measure.