WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan faces his first big test as Congress stares down a deadline to do something that has become increasingly difficult: pass a bill to fund the government.
With just seven workdays left before the Dec. 11 deadline, the new speaker will aim to leverage his political honeymoon into a strategy that will avoid a federal shutdown.
But already Ryan is under pressure to tack on a host of GOP policy provisions to the $1.1 trillion spending bill — among them efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, halt the entry of Syrian refugees into the U.S. and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Forcing any of those extras into the bill might bolster support from conservatives, but it would also unleash a backlash from Democrats, setting up a showdown in Congress and with the White House.
“We obviously have difference of opinions on all of these big issues,” Ryan said Tuesday.
The Wisconsin Republican received an assist from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 2 Republican, who suggested Monday that the Dec. 11 deadline to pass a spending bill might slip to Dec. 18, allowing more time to get rank-and-file Republicans on board.
Leaders need to tamp down GOP dissent over what will likely be a compromise.
“Our first principle starting out is to get the most conservative bill we can,” McCarthy said Monday, noting that Dec. 18 is the final workday before lawmakers break for the Christmas holidays.
He added: “I do not see a shutdown happening.”
President Obama previously said that he would not sign another temporary funding bill beyond the one that runs out Dec. 11, but the White House softened that Monday, opening the door for a stopgap measure for just a few days.
Both sides had hoped that the two-year budget accord reached this fall would create a smoother landing for the year-end spending bill. But staff negotiators have struggled to reach a compromise.
The days ahead will be pivotal for Ryan, who has enjoyed mostly positive reviews since he took over for beleaguered House Speaker John Boehner.
But Ryan’s leadership has not yet been seriously tested.
“I say with some confidence that the newly elected speaker of the House doesn’t want to preside over a government shutdown six weeks into his tenure,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.