Speaker Johnson is moving forward with foreign aid bills despite threat to oust him

By Lexie Schapitl (NPR)
April 17, 2024 7:20 p.m.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks during a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on April 10.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks during a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on April 10.

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Updated April 17, 2024 at 2:04 PM ET


House Speaker Mike Johnson is moving forward with a plan to vote on separate bills to provide assistance to Ukraine, Israel and U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific, despite growing criticism from within his conference and the looming threat of being ousted from his post.

President Biden said he strongly supports the package of aid bills, and urged the House to pass the package this week.

The plan is to introduce the three individual foreign aid bills; a fourth bill placing sanctions on Russia, China and Iran; and a fifth bill including border security measures, Johnson said in a message to House Republicans Wednesday. Bill text for the foreign aid bills was posted Wednesday afternoon.

The addition of a border security bill comes after a number of House Republicans criticized Johnson for abandoning prior demands to tie Ukraine funding to border provisions. A Senate-passed package that included foreign aid with no border provisions has been languishing in the House. But the change may not be enough to assuage hardline conservatives, who swiftly came out in opposition of the plan.


The four bills related to foreign threats are being considered under one procedural "rule," while the border bill will be considered under its own. Rep. Ralph Norman, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the House Rules Committee, said that the arrangement would mean the border bill was "set up to fail."

"With Ukraine funding in there, then it's got a shot," said Norman, R-S.C. "The thing [Democrats] want is Ukraine."

Norman suggested he would oppose the rule for the larger package if it did not include the border security bill. Republican Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Thomas Massie of Kentucky also sit on the Rules Committee and have spoken out against the plan. The three met with Speaker Johnson Wednesday to discuss their concerns.

Three Republican "No's" in committee could defeat the motion before it even comes to the floor. On the floor, Johnson has almost no wiggle room within his razor-thin majority.

Roy, who opposes Ukraine funding, said he would vote against the rule because "the border 'vote' in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote," he wrote on social media.

Typically, the minority does not provide votes to pass rules on the floor. Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, Democratic House Whip Katherine Clark on Wednesday did not rule out Democrats supporting the rule in this case, but said her caucus needed to see the substance of the legislation first.

"They have to tell us what they're bringing to the floor before we can say, 'This is how we'll help you do it,' " Clark said.

Clark said Democrats' preference would be for a single House vote on the foreign aid package that passed the Senate, but that their priority was passing assistance to Ukraine. She added that providing the $9 billion of humanitarian assistance to Gaza and other countries included in the Senate bill is a "red line."

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