House’s Two-Step Shuffle

Where money, power and politics collide.

There is something in this world called the two-step shuffle, but it certainly was not intended for Congress.

Yet Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, in the first big test of his leadership as House Speaker, led the charge to push through an extremely unique two-step plan this week to prevent a government shutdown.

The bill aims to extend funding for the U.S. Energy Department, housing, transportation, veterans’ affairs and military construction through Jan. 19, while funding for anything else would be covered until Feb. 2 – with no funds allotted for more aid to Israel or Ukraine.

Notably, the bill passed the House with a vote of 336 to 95 – with Democrats largely lending a hand with 209 votes, compared with 2 Democrats who opposed and 93 Republicans who voted against.

President Biden has promised to sign the stopgap bill as soon as the Senate approves the measure, which it will have to do very quickly this week, as the government will run out of funds by midnight Friday.

Where does this leave Congress? Even if the bill passes, lawmakers will need to get sorted on how to pass full-year spending bills again, insteading of chopping them into tinier pieces and giving them bifurcated time frames as a way of kicking the can down the road.

That won’t be easy, as partisan divides are at their worst in decades, with data from one Pew Research Center analysis showing Democrats and Republicans are further apart, ideologically, than at any other time in the past 50 years. 

Pew’s analysis draws its findings from a method called DW-NOMINATE, which uses lawmakers’ roll-call votes as a way to track them over time.

Its conclusion: The stalemate between Republicans and Democrats is “the result of several overlapping trends that have been playing themselves out – and sometimes reinforcing each other – for decades.”

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