Apr 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Johnson faces new pressure from Democrats on foreign aid

Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing a dark gray suit and glasses, with the Capitol building in the background.

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is facing new demands from Democrats to include humanitarian aid for a variety of global hot spots in a foreign aid package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: It complicates the speaker's precarious path for passing aid to Israel and Ukraine as he tries to balance competing demands from all ends of the ideological spectrum.

  • "He's a bit boxed in," one House Democrat said of Johnson. "He goes one way, he loses votes, he goes another way, he loses votes, and he's got people who are talking about throwing him out every day."
  • "No matter which path he walks down ... one's with alligators, one's with piranhas. It's a nightmare version of choose-your-own adventure."

Driving the news: Eight House Democrats, led by Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), urged Johnson in a letter on Tuesday to include at least $9.16 billion in aid to countries facing violent conflicts and other humanitarian crises.

  • In addition to Ukraine and Gaza, the letter calls for aid to Sudan, Haiti, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Lebanon.
  • "By abdicating this responsibility, our nation would allow unstable areas around the world to grow even more volatile—fueling threats to our security," the lawmakers wrote.

Between the lines: Johnson will need Democrats to vote overwhelmingly for any foreign aid bills under a process that requires them to attain a two-thirds majority.

The other side: Humanitarian aid to Palestinians is deeply unpopular among the Republican lawmakers Johnson is trying to appease, as is non-military aid to Ukraine and government spending in general.

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has threatened to trigger a vote to remove Johnson as speaker if he holds a Ukraine aid vote in any form.
  • A House Republican close to the speaker told Axios the chances of additional humanitarian aid getting a vote in the House are "slim."

The bottom line: Johnson "is going to have to do whatever he can to get as many Republicans [as he can]," the House Democrat told Axios.

  • But, the lawmaker said, Johnson "does this with Democrats. I think there's no other way around it. ... The question is: How can he save the most face in the process?"
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