Key senator blasts House GOP’s funding threat as shutdown confrontation brews

WASHINGTON — A top Senate Democrat is sounding the alarm about House Speaker Mike Johnson’s proposal to punt on government funding for another year, warning that the Senate won’t accept his “absolutely devastating” plan, as it would force destructive cuts to the military and domestic programs.

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Johnson’s threatened plan would be “unprecedented” and cause “chaos and pain” across the United States.

She vowed that the Senate would not pass such a bill.

“Let me be clear: That is an absolute dangerous, nonstarter proposal that will never be passed into law,” Murray told NBC News on Thursday as lawmakers were leaving town for the weekend. “I will not do that to people in America.”

Johnson recently told Republicans behind closed doors that if Congress fails to pass full funding bills before next year’s two-part government shutdown deadlines, he’ll push for a full-year continuing resolution, or CR, according to the Washington Examiner. When asked, his office did not dispute the remarks.

A full-year CR would force across-the-board cuts in April, hitting the military harder than nondefense programs. And it would eliminate some $69 billion in domestic funding relative to June’s bipartisan budget agreement. Far-right House Republicans see that as a feature, not a bug, but many in the party are deeply uneasy about the military spending cuts.

Murray’s word carries weight in the Democratic-led chamber, given her position as committee chair, Senate president pro tempore and a former leadership member who’s respected across the aisle. Her warning raises the stakes for the early 2024 deadlines on government funding — Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 — and preview a confrontation with the Republican-led House, where conservatives want to curtail spending.

She accused Johnson of wasting time by failing to instruct House appropriators to negotiate bills at the spending levels both chambers and the White House agreed to in the budget accord enacted in June.

With few legislative days left before the end of the year, Johnson told colleagues in a letter Thursday he still wants a deal but that Congress has kicked the can twice since September and “I do not intend to have the House consider any further short-term extensions.” Johnson faces pressure from GOP hard-liners after a group of them ousted his predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accusing him of mishandling the spending process.

Murray said that average Americans would feel the harmful impacts of a full-year CR, with its across-the-board spending cuts.

“We’ll have huge distribution problems with the supply chain. We’ll have an inability to build new weapons systems that have been negotiated under our defenses. We’ll literally be fighting wars of the past and not of the future,” she said. “It will impact parts of [Americans’] life that they’ve never thought about before, whether it’s getting help from government agencies like the Social Security Administration or their ability to send their kids to college.”

Johnson’s office had no immediate comment when asked about the remarks from Murray, who has the backing of some Senate Republicans on her committee, too.

“I’m very opposed to one-year CR,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who sits on the committee. “And I think that we’re going to work really hard to find some sort of agreement to prevent that.”

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said a full-year stopgap bill would amount to “essentially locking in last year’s priorities, continuing to fund programs that should not be funded or that should be reduced, and preventing the funding of new programs.”

Murray said she’s speaking up now to avoid a take-it-or-leave-it confrontation early next year.

“That’s exactly why I am yelling to the rooftops right now,” she said. “What he has done is set in motion a path to not get any work done if he doesn’t tell his Appropriations Committee to do their job and work with us to negotiate.”