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Congress averts government shutdown. Passes another short-term funding bill

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Congress has passed another stopgap funding bill which keeps the lights on in Washington through February.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

It's the latest in a series of short-term extensions passed by Congress after they failed to pass the year-long bills they were supposed to pass back in September.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eric McDaniel has been watching it all from the Capitol. Eric, we're kind of getting used to stopgap bills. Why haven't they passed the full year spending bill yet?

ERIC MCDANIEL, BYLINE: Yeah, you know, it's a good question. For a long time, politics was sort of the art of the possible, right? Compromise was the name of the game, especially in moments like this of divided government. But I'd say over the last 15 years or so, there's been a growing number of Republicans who have sort of a different approach. They'd rather shut down the government entirely than compromise on policies that they feel are insufficiently conservative. And they see bipartisan bills, bills that you pass with Democratic votes, as failures. And in a Congress with a wafer-thin Republican majority like this one, that group just holds a lot of influence right now.

MARTÍNEZ: So what are we hearing from them?

MCDANIEL: Well, speaker Mike Johnson, he's the leader of the House Republican Caucus, obviously. And he's new on the job, right? He's about 90 days in. And he's relied on his sort of early days goodwill to set a bipartisan, top-line spending target, which was a big deal in negotiations with other congressional leaders, and keep the lights on with these short-term bills. But both moves really kind of irked his anti-compromise members, folks like Chip Roy of Texas. Here's Roy speaking out against the funding bill that they passed last night on the House floor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHIP ROY: This continuing resolution will fund your government at the same level as last year's massive omnibus spending bill that all my Republican colleagues, with the exception of two in this chamber, were adamantly opposed to. And they're going to vote for it.

MCDANIEL: And look, if Roy gets frustrated enough, he can join with a group of just three or four other Republicans and vote with Democrats to fire Johnson and throw the chamber back into chaos. You'll probably remember something like that happening this fall. So Johnson is busy balancing their demands while still coming up with bills Biden could sign. That's a really hard ask. And so far, it's just been these spending bills, the short-term bills, that have been possible.

MARTÍNEZ: So what, till March, right, to work on funding?

MCDANIEL: That's right.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

MCDANIEL: Yeah, March 1 and March 8 are the two deadlines.

MARTÍNEZ: But they're also working on other stuff, too, immigration, Ukraine deal. A lot going on.

MCDANIEL: Yeah. So it's right now, separate from the funding negotiations, but the Senate is working on an immigration and Ukraine aid deal. And in all the ways the House hasn't been working toward compromise, the Senate really has been. But even if the Senate does get a deal done - right? - the question is back to the House, where speaker Mike Johnson has so far backed his faction of anti-compromise folks. And he controls what comes up for a vote. So unless he has a change of heart and is willing to put forward a compromise deal, I'd say immigration reform is probably still going to stagnate. And that's been the story in Congress for more than three decades at this point. The last reform was 1986.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, it doesn't sound - I mean, I like to be positive about stuff, Eric, but it doesn't sound like there's going to be a lot of hope of getting any more legislating done this year, right?

MCDANIEL: I think it's fair to anticipate...

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

MCDANIEL: ...A stunningly unproductive year in terms of legislation.

MARTÍNEZ: Oh, no.

MCDANIEL: So a lot to come.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR congressional reporter Eric McDaniel. Eric, thanks.

MCDANIEL: Thank you, A. 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.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.