Right Wing Pressures Johnson to Abandon Spending Deal to Avert Shutdown

Speaker Mike Johnson came under mounting pressure on Thursday from House G.O.P. hard-liners to renege on the spending deal he struck with Democrats over the weekend for avoiding a government shutdown, as ultraconservatives demanded he put forward a new plan with deeper cuts.

After meeting privately in his office in the Capitol with Republicans irate about the spending agreement, Mr. Johnson said he was discussing their demand to walk away from the bipartisan agreement but had “made no commitments” to do so.

But Republicans made it clear that they considered the deal the speaker negotiated a nonstarter, and threatened to wreak havoc in the House if he did not advance a different one. They are pressing for deep spending cuts, and many have said they cannot vote for any government funding measure that fails to include a severe crackdown on immigration.

“It’s a bad deal,” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, said of the plan Mr. Johnson has agreed to with Democrats. “It’s a deal that I don’t support and other conservatives in the conference don’t support. So he’s going to have to go back to the drawing table.”

Mr. Johnson has told critics of his deal that he would consider dropping it, but only if they could come up with an alternative that could draw a majority in the House, where the party has just a two-seat edge. Such a plan would need to draw the backing of both the far right and more mainstream Republicans in competitive districts who have balked at the scope of the spending cuts and conservative policy dictates that their colleagues have demanded.

The blowup underscored the treacherous territory Mr. Johnson is facing as he tries to keep the government funded while assuaging the anger of hard-liners in his conference. It came a day after a dozen right-wing lawmakers revolted on the House floor, grinding business to a halt in protest of the spending deal.

What the ultraconservative members are suggesting — abandoning a deal days after it was announced — would amount to a remarkable breach by Mr. Johnson with Senate Democrats, Republicans and the White House just three months into his speakership. Mr. Johnson said on Thursday after the meeting that he would continue to discuss “funding options” with a cross-section of lawmakers, and he denied making any promises.

“While those conversations are going on, I’ve made no commitments,” Mr. Johnson said. “If you hear otherwise, it’s simply not true.”

The potential backtracking from the deal, which essentially hews to the bargain that President Biden struck with then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy last year to suspend the debt ceiling, caught senators by surprise. Democrats said they would proceed with the deal they made with Mr. Johnson, and with a temporary spending patch — known as a continuing resolution, or “C.R.,” — to buy more time past a Jan. 19 deadline to enact it without a partial government shutdown.

“Look, we have a top-line agreement,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader. “Everybody knows to get anything done, it has to be bipartisan. So we’re going to continue to work to pass a C.R. and avoid a shutdown.”

It was evident from the start that Mr. Johnson would need to rely on Democratic votes to pass any spending bill in the House, cobbling together the same coalition that Mr. McCarthy used in September to avert a government shutdown — a move that led to his ouster.

The Freedom Caucus repeatedly revolted during Mr. McCarthy’s tenure over stopgap funding bills that kept government spending essentially flat, and their reaction to a similar plan advanced by Mr. Johnson was no different. Some conservatives are pushing for a one-year funding plan that would lead to cuts across the entire federal government, including both domestic and military spending. It is a plan that Democrats say would gut social programs, and one that politically vulnerable Republicans may be loath to support.

“What I think we ought to do is to fund the government at a level that cuts our spending year over year, that secures our border,” said Representative Bob Good of Virginia, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus.

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