Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

The Memo: Johnson set for a tough victory

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson Jun9,2024

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) looks set to successfully face down the hard-right members of his conference on a series of foreign aid bills — after a mighty fight.

Johnson will need to lean on Democrats to pass the bills, which deal with aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and provide for some measures to help reduce the direct cost to American taxpayers.

Democrats seem inclined to help him. They overwhelmingly believe in the need for the aid, especially for Ukraine, and they appear reluctant to put that at risk simply to sow further chaos in the GOP conference.

President Biden also supports the bills, which total more than $90 billion. 

For now, the plan is to have the House vote on the legislation Saturday. The Senate is then likely to create one piece of legislation out of the aid-related bills that are expected to pass out of the House. Then, the overall package would go to Biden for his signature.

So far, Johnson has seemingly defied the naysayers who believed his grip on the gavel would prove brief. Johnson only became Speaker in late October, after a prolonged bout of GOP internal mayhem following the ouster of his predecessor, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

In recent weeks, Johnson’s political fortunes have gyrated — downward courtesy of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and rebounding thanks to an assist from former President Trump.

Greene threatened to pull the trigger on a motion to vacate, which would have threatened to end Johnson’s tenure.

But, somewhat unexpectedly, Trump rallied to Johnson’s side, praising their “very good relationship” after Johnson journeyed to Mar-a-Lago last week. 

“I stand with the Speaker,” Trump said.

Now, more moderate Republicans are praising Johnson for apparently facing down Greene and the other member who had expressed a willingness to support the motion to vacate, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).

“You get to a point where you can’t let yourself be held hostage by a fringe wing,” said GOP strategist Alex Conant, who worked on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential campaign. 

“The vast majority of Republicans don’t want to surrender Ukraine and support giving our allies what they need,” Conant added.

The legislation in question provides about $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, amid warnings that the eastern European country is in urgent peril as it tries to repel the Russian invasion that was launched in February 2022.

Polls show that Republican voters tend to be more skeptical of aid to Ukraine than their Democratic counterparts. That’s an inversion of the pattern seen during the Cold War, and appears to be driven by Trump’s “America First” nationalism as well as a public weariness with foreign entanglements after the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An Economist/YouGov poll last month indicated that 49 percent of surveyed Republicans want to decrease military aid to Ukraine, whereas 24 percent want the level of assistance to remain the same and 15 percent want to increase military aid.

Prominent Republicans have become increasingly vocal about the imperative to repel the forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Time is not on our side,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. McCaul called the current moment a “pivotal” era for the world.

Johnson earlier this week referred to himself as a “wartime Speaker.” During a CNN interview on Wednesday, Johnson told anchor Jake Tapper that his party was “going to stand for freedom and make sure Vladimir Putin doesn’t march through Europe.”

But the same interview got Johnson into hot water on Capitol Hill when he hinted that he might seek to change the rules around the motion to vacate so that the procedure required more than a single member to be put into action.

Merely floating that idea sparked a furious reaction from some hard-liners including Greene and Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.).

Johnson rowed back on Thursday with a social media post. He insisted that “many members have encouraged me to endorse a new rule to raise this threshold” and that “I understand the importance of that idea.” 

But he added that “any rule change requires a majority of the full House, which we do not have. We will continue to govern under the existing rules.”

That seems to have been enough to quell any rising rebellion. 

Republicans broadly sympathetic toward Johnson argued that, overall, the Speaker had done what was required to get the aid bills passed — and to try to sideline his most vigorous internal critics.

“It’s smart for him to go ahead and get it done,” said GOP strategist Dan Judy. “I think he has given more than enough time and attention to the hardcore elements in the party — far more than those elements deserve, frankly.”

Johnson is far from out of the woods yet. Some Republicans are furious about the fact that his approach of separating different measures into different bills has effectively killed any real chance of tougher border security measures being part of the end product.

One of the five bills Johnson is pushing addresses that issue but, because it’s now a stand-alone piece of legislation, the Senate is expected to simply ignore it.

But, so far, it looks like that is a price most of the GOP is willing to pay. 

A party that has suffered so much recent turmoil seems prepared to stick with Johnson for now.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.

Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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2 thoughts on “The Memo: Johnson set for a tough victory”
  1. In my opinion, Johnson seems to be handling the tough situation with finesse. It’s impressive to see how he’s strategically leveraging bipartisan support to pass crucial aid bills without compromising his position within the conference. The planned House vote on Saturday will be a key moment in this high-stakes political drama.

  2. Is the President Biden’s support for the bills a significant factor in Johnson’s potential victory?

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