House Republicans have formally elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) to serve as Speaker of the House, drawing a merciful end to the 22-day ordeal after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was ousted. Speaker Johnson has a tall task ahead of him with getting the House back to business, especially when it comes to several pending “must-pass” items. In a letter to GOP lawmakers earlier this week, the new Speaker outlined his vision for floor activity in 2023 and beyond:
- Speaker Johnson proposed the following schedule for considering appropriations bills on the House floor: (1) Energy-Water Development prior to the end of this week; (2) Legislative Branch, Interior-Environment, and Transportation-HUD next week; (3) Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) and Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) the week of November 6; and (4) Labor-HHS-Education and Agriculture-FDA the week of November 13. In an attempt to quell lingering disagreements over the Labor-HHS-Education and Agriculture-FDA spending measures, the Speaker is proposing to discharge these bills from the Appropriations Committee and stand up a Member working group to address these issues. The Speaker also suggested another continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded past the end of the year, through January 14 or April 15, 2024, as well as passing all appropriations bills by the end of the November work period.
- Supplemental Funding. Military and economic assistance for both Israel and Ukraine was notably absent from the new speaker’s letter, which could put him at odds with both the White House and senators on both sides of the aisle that have been working on a bipartisan supplemental funding bill. Ukraine funding in particular has been a point of contention within the House GOP Conference, but some on the Hill have speculated that Speaker Johnson could opt to leverage these funds for additional funding and reforms for U.S.-Mexico border security. However, it is too early to tell whether this idea has enough momentum at this point.
- Speaker Johnson is pushing for negotiations with the Senate on a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by the end of next month, followed by a floor vote in December. Conferees will have a tall task this year of reconciling the differences between both bills, as there are several provisions within the House version that could impede the path to passage in both chambers.
- Farm Bill. Consideration of the 2023 Farm Bill will occur in the December work period, according to the timeline that Speaker Johnson proposed. He plans to begin negotiations with the Senate “as soon as possible,” but it is growing increasingly likely that a new farm bill will not be passed until 2024. The new speaker will need to reconcile lingering disagreements over Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program benefits, higher crop subsidies, and climate funding to clinch another long-term deal.
- Looking Ahead to 2024. Speaker Johnson outlined an ambitious legislative schedule for next year, especially when the upcoming 2024 election cycle is factored in. The Speaker is hopeful to build a consensus within the GOP conference on FY 2025 funding levels, assuming that a FY 2024 deal is hammered out sometime within the first quarter of next year. Other notable callouts in the 2024 agenda include consideration of several “must-pass” items during the May-July work period next year, including: (1) House FY 2025 spending bills (2) the FY 2025 NDAA during May-July of next year; and (3) the 2024 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Speaker Johnson’s goal is to have all of these items negotiated with the Senate ahead of the final stretch of the 2024 campaign in October.
- Situational awareness. While House Republicans were jubilant after finally finding a successor to former Speaker McCarthy, Speaker Johnson must now navigate the aftermath of the three-week saga that saw contentious intraparty clashing among Republican lawmakers. With less than a month to go until the November 17 government funding deadline — as well as limited floor bandwidth for the balance of the year — the newly-elected Speaker will need to walk a tough political tightrope to appease both moderates and conservatives within his own party, as well as find common ground with Senate Democratic leadership and the White House on items that require bipartisan support.