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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Northwest Republicans split as House passes short-term spending bill, averting government shutdown

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., at a Capitol news conference on Tuesday.  (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON – The House on Tuesday passed a short-term spending bill to fund the government, with nearly all Democrats and more than half of Republicans voting to avert a shutdown that would have begun at the end of the week.

The divide among Republicans was reflected in the Northwest delegation, as hard-right lawmakers opposed the bill while more moderate GOP members backed it. Only two House Democrats voted against the bill, which is expected to pass the Democratic-majority Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden.

Rep. Marilyn Strickland, a Democrat from Tacoma, said before the vote that while “lurching from crisis to crisis” with short-term spending bills “is just a poor way to govern,” she was happy that the legislation would keep funding at current levels and doesn’t include conservative policy provisions that Democrats couldn’t support.

“It’s just not good for anyone,” Strickland said of the process. “But overall, if we’re able to maintain spending levels at 2023, that’s absolutely a win for us.”

GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside, Mike Simpson of Idaho Falls, Cliff Bentz of Eastern Oregon and Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Central Oregon all voted for the bill, which continues government funding at current levels until Jan. 19, with some agencies funded until Feb. 2.

The House and Senate will use that time to try to agree on full-year spending bills.

Rep. Russ Fulcher, who represents North Idaho and areas west of Boise, voted no.

In a brief interview before the vote, the Republican said he wanted to see his party use the threat of a government shutdown to win concessions from Democrats, such as spending cuts or policy changes at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Frankly, I think the speaker missed an opportunity to do something,” he said, suggesting that right-wing lawmakers overplayed their hand by demanding spending cuts and a raft of conservative policy changes. “I think some of us on the real right side missed an opportunity, because we asked for everything.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., relied on Democrats to pass the bill, which required a two-thirds majority. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted by far-right Republicans after he made essentially the same move as Johnson did Tuesday, but Fulcher said he doesn’t expect Johnson to lose his job over the vote.

“We’re in a tough spot,” Fulcher said. “I think everybody is trying to extend some grace to the speaker, myself included. He kind of inherited this.”

Every Northwest Democrat voted for the stopgap spending measure, despite a “laddered” approach that lets funding for some parts of the government – agriculture, energy and water, military construction and veterans affairs, and transportation and housing and urban development – run out two weeks before the rest of the governments.

That structure was originally proposed by far-right members who ended up voting against the bill, but Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who leads House progressives, told reporters Tuesday she saw that approach as a way for Johnson to “give a bone” to GOP hardliners. Despite that, the Seattle Democrat said the lack of spending cuts or conservative policy provisions represented “very significant wins” for Democrats.

In a statement released on Saturday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the two-tiered continuing resolution “an unserious proposal” that would lead to an “Extreme Republican Shutdown.”

But after Democrats in Congress expressed openness to the idea over the weekend, Biden told reporters on Monday he was “not going to make a judgment” until he saw the final bill.

Simpson, who is deeply involved in the funding process as chair of an Appropriations subcommittee, said in a statement that the House “must prioritize the needs of the American people and keep our government open.”

“Government shutdowns are never the way to govern, and a shutdown would prevent Congress from getting back to regular order,” Simpson said.

“I applaud Speaker Johnson for his leadership and willingness to continue our work in passing fiscally responsible appropriations bills. ”