Politics

Johnson Says He’ll Stand by Deal to Avert Shutdown, Spurning Hard-Right Demands

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Speaker Mike Johnson said on Friday that he stood by the spending deal he negotiated with Democrats to avert a government shutdown, spurning demands from ultraconservatives who have pressured him to jettison the agreement.

The announcement, after days of public silence about what he would do, all but 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 past a pair of deadlines on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, going back on his promise to never bring up another temporary spending measure.

Mr. Johnson had been facing mounting pressure from the hard-right Republicans, who are furious at the spending levels in the bipartisan plan, to find an alternative. They have begun dangling the threat of forcing a vote to oust the Louisiana Republican, subjecting him to the same fate as his predecessor.

But after a flurry of meetings with both ultraconservative critics and politically vulnerable Republicans in swing districts who urged him to adhere to the compromise, Mr. Johnson emerged to declare: “Our top-line agreement remains.”

“After weeks of hard-fought negotiations, we achieved a strong top-line agreement,” he said, adding that Republicans had secured concessions including speeding up $10 billion in cuts to I.R.S. enforcement and clawing back $6 billion in unspent Covid dollars and other emergency funds.

The announcement, which infuriated the hard right, came minutes after an animated back-and-forth on the House floor with members of the Freedom Caucus, many of whom had demanded that he scrap the deal entirely in favor of deep spending cuts and refuse to fund the government further without a severe crackdown on migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“My message is the same that it has been — that we need to cut spending year over year, we need to secure the border,” Representative Bob Good of Virginia, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said after the exchange. “We need border enforcement combined with any spending agreement to fund this government. We shouldn’t keep funding this border invasion.”

The scene encapsulated the bind in which Mr. Johnson finds himself as he labors to steer a divided Republican conference with a tiny majority — the same predicament that tormented 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 had negotiated with Democrats and said their voters could not stomach the kind of deep cuts the Freedom Caucus is demanding.

“We’ve got 10 or 12 loudmouths who try to take over the whole conference,” said Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska, emerging from Mr. Johnson’s office. “We’ve got to do what’s right for the country. And the vast majority of us know that he negotiated — and the speaker before him negotiated — the best deal that we could’ve got.”

“I think the speaker needed to hear that the vast majority of us are with him and just, move on,” Mr. Bacon added. “Let’s get this done.”

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, moved on Thursday to schedule action next week on a stopgap spending measure to give lawmakers and aides time to translate the overall funding agreement into 12 individual spending bills that can be passed and signed into law, a time-consuming process. Lawmakers have yet to agree on how long it would last.

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