What’s a laddered CR? What we know about the House GOP's new plan to avoid a shutdown

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WASHINGTON — As Congress nears another government funding deadline on Nov. 17, House Republicans are considering a new approach to extending the current budget that House Speaker Mike Johnson is calling a "laddered CR."

It would be a novel type of continuing resolution, the tool typically used by Congress to extend funding levels to keep the government running in lieu of an agreement on next year's federal budget.

"There's a growing recognition that we're going to need another stopgap funding measure," Johnson, the new House leader from Louisiana, said Thursday during his first press conference.

He had initially planned to support extending the existing funding agreement — which kept the government operating at current spending levels 45 days past the end of the fiscal year — through Jan. 15.

But now Republicans are considering a "laddered CR" that would extend the deadline for each of the 12 individual appropriations bills, rather than the budget as a whole, Johnson said.

"We'll see how that goes. I think we can get consensus around it," he said. "We have to complete the job and we run out the clock on this, but we want to do what's right for the American people."

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks with reporters ahead of the debate and vote on supplemental aid to Israel, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks with reporters ahead of the debate and vote on supplemental aid to Israel, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023.

How a laddered CR works

The proposal would theoretically encourage Congress to consider and pass smaller budget bills — the official process laid out in a 1970s-era law, but which is rarely followed. Instead, Congress typically bundles the 12 appropriations bills into a single, massive omnibus bill.

But it would also create a series of funding deadlines that, if not met, would shut down sections of the government at different times. It would also create repeated negotiation chokepoints for a closely-divided Congress that has proven particularly fractious.

What Democrats are saying about the laddered CR

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., meets with reporters just after the House approved a nearly $14.5 billion military aid package for Israel, but without humanitarian assistance for Gaza, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. Democrats say that approach would only delay help for Israel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has warned that the "stunningly unserious" bill has no chances in the Senate. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats largely panned the idea, claiming it would quickly lead to another government shutdown. Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York said "the American people should be very concerned" about the plan.

"This notion of a so-called laddered CR... the novelty of my friends on the other side of the aisle, in terms of how they come up with language that disguise their intentions," Jeffries said. "Translation: They want to shut the government down."

The White House didn't weigh in on the strategy Friday, but urged Congress to pass the budget, along with a joint funding bill for Israel and Ukraine.

"That is for them to decide. They have to do their job, they have less than two weeks to get this done and keep the government open," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. "We're not going to get into what that's going to look like."

Some Republicans flip-flop on CR

A faction of conservative House Republicans had been pressuring former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to pass individual spending bills and opposed a short-term extension.

When McCarthy agreed to a continuing resolution in September to avoid a government shutdown, several of those members successfully led the effort to kick him out of his leadership role.

While many of those Republicans are still resistant to a continuing resolution, some have indicated they are more open to the idea coming from the new speaker.

"Whatever the situation around a CR, a laddered CR — it's got some merits to it — let's conference these bills, let's get the government funded, let's not play games, let's avoid an omni, which the people don't want.," said Rep. Byron Donald, R-Fla., who had slammed the CR passed under McCarthy.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is a laddered CR? What we know about the new GOP budget plan