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House Republicans Narrow Strategies to Avert Government Shutdown, but Can’t Find Consensus

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With just 10 days until the government funding deadline, House Republicans are grappling with multiple strategies to avert a government shutdown but are yet to coalesce behind a plan.

In a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson laid out a series of options for his members. But after the meeting, several House GOP lawmakers acknowledged that they appear no closer to reaching a consensus on how to proceed, raising the stakes for the newly elected Speaker tasked with confronting the fraught internal dynamics of his conference.

Johnson is yet to endorse a strategy, but one option under consideration is the incremental funding of different parts of the government, an idea favored by many members of the Republican conference. This “laddered” approach would set different deadlines on tranches of government funding, pressuring the Senate to engage in negotiations, but is likely to face opposition among appropriators for creating too many inflection points. Another option is to pass a more conventional continuing resolution to keep the entire government funded through January 19, granting appropriators additional time to negotiate, although this could provoke backlash from far-right House Republicans who fear that Johnson may give in to Democratic demands. 

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The uncertainty surrounding the impending deadline has added further complexity to an already challenging legislative landscape on Capitol Hill, where emergency aid to Israel and Ukraine are provoking fierce disputes among lawmakers. A government shutdown at midnight on Nov. 18 would have widespread consequences, affecting numerous federal services and the roughly 2 million civilian and military employees who rely on them.

The situation has left many lawmakers, including Rep. Tom Cole from Oklahoma, waiting for Johnson to take the lead. "Speaker [Johnson] put everything on the table … When he has a strategy, that’s the strategy I’ll support," Cole said after Tuesday's meeting.

For Johnson, the battle to avoid a government shutdown marks a critical moment early in his leadership. Johnson is also looking to avoid a fate similar to that of his predecessor, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who was removed from his position after striking a deal with Democrats at the last deadline to fund the government until mid-November. Some hardline Republicans have signaled a willingness to give Johnson more breathing room, but his position is precarious with any member able to call a motion to vacate at any time.

“I’m not going to tell you when we will bring it to the floor, but it will be in time, how about that? Johnson told reporters after the meeting. “Trust us.”

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Write to Nik Popli at nik.popli@time.com