Apr 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Mike Johnson's race against the clock on foreign aid

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

No one is feeling the political heartburn more than Speaker Mike Johnson as the House takes its time finalizing foreign aid bills for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Why it matters: The sooner Johnson gets the bills to the floor, the more protection he can demand from Democrats.

  • One fewer Republican will be in Johnson's corner as of Friday, when Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) will leave Congress.
  • The longer Johnson negotiates the bills, the more they'll get loaded with potential poison pills that could blow up a deal.
  • Most agonizingly, dragging this out puts Johnson at risk of having to make public commitments to Democrats ahead of foreign aid votes to bail him out from a motion to vacate by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

The big picture: Johnson — like former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy before him — risks being abandoned by his would-be saviors.

  • Multiple Democrats are on record as being ready to bail out Johnson if there's a motion to vacate.
  • Johnson can't take them for granted, especially if Ukraine aid doesn't make the floor or the process turns into an ugly partisan fight.

The southern border is a potential powder keg, as House Republicans are demanding its inclusion despite agitating against border language in the Senate aid bill.

  • Unexpected members like Rep. Nicole Malliotokis (R-N.Y.) are considering voting against advancing the aid bills over the lack of border policy changes.
  • Aside from the border, the biggest sticking points are humanitarian aid for Gaza and significant aid for Ukraine.

The bottom line: Republicans are accusing Johnson of "steering everything toward what [Sen. Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer wants," as Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said today when joining Greene's motion to vacate effort.

  • But nothing would get Schumer what he wants more than House Republicans joining Democrats on a discharge petition to force a vote on Schumer's foreign aid bill.
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