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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Joan E Greve

Mike Johnson moves ahead with foreign aid bills despite threats to oust him

US speaker of the House Mike Johnson
The speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, attends a news conference at the US Capitol on Tuesday. Photograph: Julia Nikhinson/AFP/Getty Images

The House speaker, Mike Johnson, is pushing ahead with his plan to hold votes on four separate foreign aid bills this week, despite threats from two fellow Republicans to oust him if he advances a Ukraine funding proposal.

Shortly after noon on Wednesday, the rules committee posted text for three bills that would provide funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The text of a fourth bill, which is expected to include measures to redirect seized Russian assets toward Ukraine and force the sale of TikTok, will be released later on Wednesday, Johnson said in a note to members.

The legislation would provide $26bn in aid for Israel, $61bn for Ukraine and $8bn for US allies in the Indo-Pacific. The Israel bill also appeared to include more than $9bn in humanitarian assistance, which Democrats had demanded to assist civilians in war zones like Gaza.

Johnson indicated final votes on the bills were expected on Saturday evening, interfering with the House’s scheduled recess that was supposed to begin on Friday. If the House passes the bills, they will then be combined and sent to the Senate to simplify the upper chamber’s voting process.

In February, the Senate approved a $95bn foreign aid package that included many of the same provisions outlined in the four House bills, and the upper chamber will need to reapprove the House package before it can go to Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

In a statement, Biden called on the House to quickly approve Johnson’s proposal, saying, “The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow. I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: we stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

Johnson will almost certainly have to rely on Democratic votes to get the bills approved, as House Republicans’ majority has narrowed to just two members after a series of resignations. Mike Gallagher, a Republican representative of Wisconsin, had planned to resign on Friday, but his spokesperson told Politico that he “has the flexibility to stay and support the aid package on Saturday”.

Some prominent Democrats were already signaling their support for the package on Wednesday, increasing the likelihood of its passage.

“After House Republicans dragged their feet for months, we finally have a path forward to provide support for our allies and desperately needed humanitarian aid,” said Rose DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House appropriations committee. “We cannot retreat from the world stage under the guise of putting ‘America First’.”

In a concession to hard-right Republicans, Johnson said in his note to members that the House would also vote on Saturday on a border security bill. The text of the legislation will be posted late Wednesday, Johnson said, and it will include many of the policies outlined in HR 2, a Republican bill with many hardline immigration measures.

The House already passed HR 2 last year, but it was never taken up by the Senate. The Democrats who control the Senate remain adamantly opposed to the bill, so a similar proposal faces little hope of passage in the upper chamber.

Despite that concession, hard-right Republicans were already expressing displeasure with Johnson’s plan on Wednesday, arguing that any Ukraine aid must be directly linked with stricter border policies.

“Anything less than tying Ukraine aid to real border security fails to live up to [Johnson’s] own words just several weeks ago,” Congressman Scott Perry, a hard-right Republican of Pennsylvania, wrote on X. “Our constituents demand – and deserve – more from us.”

Congressman Chip Roy, a Republican of Texas and frequent Johnson critic, announced he would oppose the rule, a procedural motion, that will set up a final vote on the foreign aid bills.

“The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100 billion in foreign aid – while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists [and] fentanyl pour across our border,” Roy wrote on X. “The border ‘vote’ in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote. I will oppose.”

The release of the bills comes as Johnson faces a threat from two House Republicans, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, to oust him over his approach to government funding and Ukraine aid. On Tuesday, Massie announced he would co-sponsor Greene’s resolution to remove the speaker. Given Republicans’ narrow majority, Johnson will need help from Democrats to keep his job.

Undaunted by the threat, Johnson has rejected calls for his resignation and accused Greene and Massie of undermining House Republicans’ legislative priorities.

“I am not resigning, and it is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “It is not helpful to the cause. It is not helpful to the country. It does not help the House Republicans advance our agenda.”

In a floor speech on Wednesday, the Senate majority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, again implored House Republicans to pass a foreign aid package. The stakes – for Ukraine and US allies around the world – could not be higher, he reminded them.

“One way or another, I hope – I fervently hope – that we can finally finish the job in the next couple of days, but that is not certain and will depend a lot on what the House does,” Schumer said. “The entire world is waiting to see what House Republicans will do.”

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