Apr 17, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Incensed Democrats stoke GOP revolt against Mike Johnson

House Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing a blue suit and standing behind Rep. Michael McCaul in the wood-paneled House TV studio.

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Julia Nikhinson/AFP via Getty Images.

House Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-La.) delay in holding a foreign aid vote is prompting furious Democrats to redouble their pressure on Republicans to do an end-run around him – and it might work.

Why it matters: Moderate and hawkish Republicans are growing more restless and desperate by the hour with urgent aid to Ukraine poised to fall by the wayside until May if it isn't passed this week.

  • Johnson "needs to make a decision," one House Republican warned, adding that there is "a lot of frustration" in the GOP conference.

Driving the news: House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) urged colleagues in a closed-door whip meeting on Wednesday morning to leverage their connections with Republicans to get them to sign onto Democrats' foreign aid discharge petition, according to two sources in the room.

  • Clark pointed to increasing indications from Republicans that they are prepared to start signing on if Johnson doesn't move on foreign aid.
  • House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told Democratic colleagues to "use everything we have to get this done," according to one lawmaker.

Zoom in: The petition, which so far has signatures from 194 Democrats and former Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), would force a vote on the Senate's $95 billion Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan aid package if it gets to 218 signatures.

  • The House Republican who spoke on the condition of anonymity warned that "many will sign" Democrats' discharge petition if foreign aid continues to languish.
  • "I communicated with some traditional [Republicans] in their conference and they are furious," one senior House Democrat said.

Between the lines: Democrats approached Johnson's complex plan to pass foreign aid via four separate bills with open minds as they awaited details. That forbearance is running dry.

  • The senior House Democrat said Democrats are "beyond pissed" and don't believe Johnson has what it takes to get foreign aid passed.
  • Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a member of Democratic leadership, described "frustration, not just with the lack of a clear policy approach, but mostly with the utter incompetence of the Republican leadership."
  • "We are losing patience with MAGA chaos and dysfunction," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). "This is a matter of life and death, and we don't have time for the usual Republican circus high-trapeze and juggling acts."

What to watch: The House is set to recess at the end of this week, and every day that passes without legislative text of a foreign aid package is another day later the House may have to stay in session.

  • Attendance could be a serious issue for Johnson given members' travel plans: "It seems like everyone has a fundraiser planned for Friday night/Saturday," said the senior House Democrat.
  • Many lawmakers fear that waiting until the House returns at the end of April will all but seal the downfall of Ukraine's war efforts.
  • A Johnson spokesperson did not immediately provide a comment.

Go deeper: GOP's discharge petition talk grows as Ukraine aid languishes

Go deeper