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Mike Johnson rolls the dice

​Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) speaks to the media at the US Capitol in Washington, April 17, 2024.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) speaks to the media at the US Capitol in Washington, April 17, 2024.

House Speaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday announced plans to move forward with a vote on several foreign aid bills, defying hardline Republicans and potentially sparking a vote to oust him.

Final votes are expected on Saturday. The bills, which would provide assistance to Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel, have been held up for months amid staunch opposition to further aid for Kyiv from a large cohort of Republicans.

With a razor-thin majority in the House, Johnson needs support from Democrats for the bills to pass, putting him at odds with the more extreme wing of his party. GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia – an ally of former President Donald Trump, who vehemently opposes more aid to Ukraine – has filed a motion to remove Johnson as speaker and could force a vote on it in response to this latest move. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) joined Greene’s push earlier this week.

Johnson also said a vote will be held on a bill for increased border security in an apparent attempt to throw a bone to the ultraconservative Republicans threatening his job. But it doesn’t seem to have worked as GOP lawmakers are already complaining that the bill doesn’t tie Ukraine aid to border security.

The aid package is still “likely to pass, one way or another,” says Clayton Allen, Eurasia Group’s US director, and GOP lawmakers like Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida “and the rest of the far right seem to know it.”

“For Johnson, it’s a choice of the lesser of two evils: face an impossible task of keeping his conference happy or take the plunge and hope he can survive a challenge to his position through a tenuous alignment with Democrats,” says Clayton.

“That he’s even considering the latter would be beyond the pale for a Republican speaker normally, but if the last six months have shown us anything, it’s that this Congress – or at least this Republican conference – is anything but normal.”


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