Foreign Aid Bill Could Put Speaker in Jeopardy

Speaker Mike Johnson | Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Speaker Mike Johnson said on Sunday the House would take a vote on a massive foreign aid spending package, which led at least one Republican member to threaten his speakership, echoing the fate that befell former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

The spending bill aims to assist Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan and has already passed through the Senate. The package is completely separate from any spending on border security measures, which some Republicans have said must be in place before any foreign aid package can pass.

The most prominent threat to Johnson’s (R-LA) speakership came just before the House convened for a two-week break before Easter. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) filed a motion to vacate the seat, which could lead to a vote on Johnson’s ouster.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-GA) told NBC News that there was a possibility Johnson’s speakership could be threatened by bringing the spending package to a vote.

“I’m not going to deny it,” Bacon said. “We have one or two people that are not team players. They’d rather enjoy the limelight, the social media.”

Bacon did not indicate which members he was referring to, but he did say there was a possibility that the Republican Party’s scant majority in the House could be impacted by the defection of just one or two members who may not get on board with passing the foreign aid bill. He did, however, add that there was a possibility that Democrats could step up to save Johnson, thereby preventing the chaos that ensued when former McCarthy (R-CA) got the boot last year.

In an interview with Fox News, Johnson said that the bill would receive a vote on or after April 9 when the House reconvenes. He also dismissed the motion to vacate.

“Look, Marjorie Taylor-Greene filed the motion,” Johnson said. “It’s not a privileged motion, so it doesn’t move automatically. It’s just hanging there. And she’s frustrated. She and I exchanged text messages even today. We’re going to talk early next week. Marjorie is a friend.”

A privileged motion would have required the House to take up the matter within 48 hours. Without the designation, the motion is largely symbolic and does not have to be heard.

Johnson said the version of the bill that will emerge from the House will include some “important innovations.” Specifically, Johnson mentioned a plan commonly known as the REPO Act, which would allow the United States to seize Russian government assets that had been frozen over the war in Ukraine. The bill will also include a “loan” component that former President Donald Trump supports. However, issuing loans instead of aid stands almost no chance of passing the Senate on reconciliation.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FLA), a member of the Republican Freedom Caucus, has been a strong opponent of foreign aid spending without addressing the border crisis. Still, in an interview with CNN, Gaetz said he was “firmly in Johnson’s corner.”

”The speaker wants to put wins on the board for House Republicans, and we better start doing that. … I’m glad the speaker hasn’t rolled over to the $95 billion Ukraine supplemental that the Senate passed, and I think that he’s forging a better path on that issue as we speak,” Gaetz said.

Johnson has spent much of the recess working with Republican members to unite on the foreign aid issue in the hope of crafting a bill that will pass the House and be received well in the Senate.

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