House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) suggested Monday that Democrats may support the Republicans’ short-term funding bill to prevent a government shutdown — a sharp change of tone that could pave the way for easy passage when the bill hits the floor on Tuesday.
In a letter to all House Democrats, Jeffries stopped short of saying party leaders are ready to endorse the GOP proposal, known as a continuing resolution (CR), which was introduced by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) over the weekend.
But he also didn’t rule it out.
“At this time, we are carefully evaluating the proposal set forth by Republican leadership and discussing it with Members,” Jeffries wrote.
The letter marks a sharp change of tone from just last week, when Democratic leaders had skewered Republicans for floating a “laddered” budget approach, which carves government funding into separate pots to be considered on different timetables.
Jeffries had characterized the idea as “another extreme right-wing policy joyride … that would only crash and burn the federal government.”
“It’s a nonstarter,” he said Thursday during his weekly press briefing.
And the Biden administration piled on after Johnson unveiled legislation on Saturday, accusing Republicans of “wasting precious time with an unserious proposal.”
That opposition, however, focused squarely on Johnson’s unusual procedural approach — a two-tiered plan that would extend some agency funding into January, and the remainder into February — rather than the substance of the spending.
And Johnson’s proposal is in many ways advantageous to Democrats.
It keeps government funding largely at current, fiscal year 2023 levels. It avoids the steep cuts the Speaker’s conservative wing is demanding. And it excludes the thorny policy riders on issues like border security and abortion that have provided Democrats with an easy rationale for opposing GOP spending bills in the past.
Jeffries, in his letter, had cited all three of those items as major factors in determining how Democrats will vote when the package hits the floor.
“House Democrats are focused on keeping the government open while urging our Republican colleagues to work together in a bipartisan manner to lower costs, grow the middle class and protect our national security,” he wrote. “We will proceed this week through the lens of making progress for everyday Americans by continuing to put people over politics.”
Jeffries was not the only Democratic leader to soften his tone on the Johnson proposal on Monday. Earlier in the day, President Biden had declined to say he would veto the legislation if it reaches as far as his desk.
And across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) delivered a similar message on Monday afternoon, praising Johnson for proposing a “clean” CR, absent “poison pills,” and urging the Speaker to resist changes at the behest of his right flank, which would erode potential Democratic support.
“For now, I am pleased that Speaker Johnson seems to be moving in our direction by advancing a CR that doesn’t include the highly partisan cuts that Democrats have warned against,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Without congressional action, large parts of the federal government are scheduled to shut down at the end of the day on Friday.