Updated Feb 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Mike Johnson faces internal GOP dissent on Israel bill

Reps. Mike Turner, Mike Johnson and Michael McCaul.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, flanked by House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is facing criticism from both the right flank of his party and Ukraine hawks for the standalone Israel aid package the House plans to vote on this week.

Why it matters: With a razor-thin majority, Johnson will have to make up most GOP defections with Democratic votes – and top Democrats are beginning to take shots at the measure.

Driving the news: The right-wing House Freedom Caucus released a statement on Sunday saying it is "extremely disappointing that the Speaker is now surrendering to perceived pressure to move an even larger but now unpaid for Israel aid package."

State of play: The $17.6 billion Israel aid bill Johnson rolled out on Saturday excludes cuts to the IRS that he tucked into an Israel aid bill last fall in an attempt to offset the spending and placate conservatives.

  • Johnson kept all but two Republicans together when the bill was voted on in November, but won over just a dozen Democrats due to their frustration over the IRS offset.
  • In jettisoning the IRS piece, Johnson is attempting to deal a blow to Senate negotiations on a comprehensive national security package that would also include funding for Ukraine, Palestinian civilians, the Indo-Pacific and border security.

The intrigue: It's not just right-wing hardliners Johnson has to worry about this time – House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said in a CBS "Face the Nation" interview on Sunday he is "very concerned" about moving forward on Israel aid alone.

  • "I think that we really have four significant national security threats: We have Asia, we have Ukraine, we have Israel and ... of course, we have our border," Turner said, adding, "I do think that all these are coupled."
  • Johnson "has said openly that he fully supports the funding for Ukraine," he continued, "and I certainly am looking forward to the speaker describing, if he's going to piecemeal this, how each of these pieces get accomplished."

Yes, but: One House Republican, speaking on the condition of anonymity, predicted that the Ukraine hawks in the GOP will ultimately vote for the bill out of support for Israel.

  • "They'll have no choice," the lawmaker said.

What we're watching: A handful of pro-Israel Democrats who voted against the Israel aid bill in November have indicated they will support the package without IRS cuts, but senior Democrats are sounding an increasingly sour note on it.

  • "The move [Johnson] has taken to offer an Israel-only deal is a very dirty pool. It's an act of staggering bad faith," Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said in the CBS interview.
  • "As it is important for us to provide aid to Israel, this is the first step in getting aid to Israel at the expense of any aid to Ukraine and at the expense of a generational opportunity to actually get a border ... deal done," he added.

The other side: Johnson, in an NBC "Meet the Press" interview, said the House "cannot wait any longer" for the Senate to release the text of their national security package — which was expected Sunday night.

  • "The reason we have to take care of this Israel situation right now is because the situation has escalated ... We're now having, of course, U.S. personnel being fired upon there," he said.
  • Johnson predicted the Israel bill will pass by a "wide margin."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Speaker Mike Johnson and the House Freedom Caucus.

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