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House GOP divided on short-term funding as Congress barrels toward government shutdown deadline

Congress is facing another shutdown deadline next week, and House Republicans are divided about how to approach it.

House Republicans are divided over whether to support a short-term government funding extension as Congress hurdles toward the first of two shutdown deadlines next week.

"[Jan. 19] is not a rational goal. We need to do something by the 18th," Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters Wednesday. 

He agreed with earlier comments by Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., who suggested a deadline sometime in March for such an extension, known as a continuing resolution (CR).

"There's going to have to be some kind of short-term, I probably lean more toward the kind of Thune orthodoxy that we're going to need to move it into March sometime, to give us adequate time. But you know, look, we knew this was coming," Womack said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., suggested Wednesday that Republicans should use a government shutdown as leverage to get GOP policy goals passed. 

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"A shutdown is something that you have to be willing to risk, especially for the things that are on the line," Mast said. "If we're not working to extract the security of our nation and willing to shut the government down and for a period of time in order to secure our nation in part, then I don't think we're having the right fight."

Tensions have erupted in the House of Representatives already, less than halfway through the first month of 2024. 

A group of 12 conservatives staged a protest vote on Wednesday that tanked a normally sleepy procedural measure in a pointed shot at House GOP leadership over its handling of government funding talks.

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It paralyzed the House floor and forced the remainder of the day’s votes to be canceled, heightening concerns that Congress may not reach a deal by next Friday. 

Under a previous short-term funding deal passed by Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the new deadline to reach a fiscal year 2024 spending deal was split. Some agencies are funded through Jan. 19, while the remaining ones have until Feb. 2.

However, there is another timing element hovering overhead. Because of negotiations Schumer had with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a yearlong CR would trigger a 1% government funding cut in April – something hard-line Republicans have said would be preferable to the current spending deal, but Democrats oppose.

Such a standoff could very likely lead to a government shutdown.

Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., another senior Appropriations Committee member, suggested a short-term CR would be preferable to a shutdown.

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"I think we should work to avoid a shutdown. Republicans are not going to be helped by a shutdown. The country's not helped by a shutdown and taxpayers are hurt by a government shutdown," he said.

Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern, R-Okla., however, said a shutdown might even be helpful in helping Congress reach a deal if it was only "for a short period of time."

"We work really well when we know that we’ve got to come out of a shutdown," Hern said. "If we're talking about working on some policies, working on funding for a few days, then yes, I think it's better than a CR."

Senate leaders have already acknowledged that a short-term CR is likely needed. Johnson was noncommittal but did not rule it out at a Wednesday press conference.

"I'm not ruling out anything, committing to anything, other than getting these appropriations done. And I think we can. And we're pushing everybody hard," Johnson told reporters.

Fox News' Brianna O'Neil contributed to this report.

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