House to vote on Johnson’s foreign aid bills as GOP rebels’ ouster threat looms

The House of Representatives is holding a rare Saturday vote to consider Speaker Mike Johnson’s foreign aid plan, which has spurred calls for his ouster by a small group of GOP rebels.

Three of the four bills fund Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific, totaling roughly $95 billion. A fourth bill includes national security priorities like the House’s recently passed crackdown on TikTok’s ownership, as well as the REPO Act, which would liquidate seized Russian assets and give that funding to Ukraine.

Each is expected to receive a final vote sometime later this afternoon after lawmakers weigh amendments to all but the Israel bill, which House leaders decided must stay as is.

Among the amendments up for consideration is one by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., one of the House GOP’s fiercest foreign aid skeptics, to strip all funds from the $60 billion Ukraine aid bill. It’s not likely to pass, but it could get a significant amount of Republican support with a growing number of right-wing lawmakers opposed to the U.S.’ involvement in Kyiv’s war with Moscow.

Johnson’s handling of foreign aid and government spending spurred Greene to file a resolution calling for a vote to oust him from power, known as a motion to vacate the chair. Since revealing the details of his plan earlier this week, two more Republicans — Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. — have formally backed her effort.

Foreign aid has proven to be one of the most politically fraught fights Johnson has faced in his short tenure as speaker. As has been the case for most complicated issues, he’s caught in a two-front battle between the Democrat-controlled Senate and White House, as well as outspoken conservatives in his own conference — namely the House Freedom Caucus and their allies.

The former group had been pressuring Johnson to take up the Senate’s $95 billion supplemental aid package as one item, while the latter objected to foreign aid without spending offsets or border security measures.

To assuage GOP border concerns, Johnson is also holding a vote on a border security and immigration bill on Saturday — though it’s unlikely to pass. Republican rebels blasted that move as a meaningless display, arguing that Johnson knows it has no chance in the Senate if not paired with foreign aid. 

The foreign aid proposal passed a key procedural hurdle on Friday morning known as a rule vote, which now allows for debate and passage of the final bills.

Rule votes have traditionally fallen across party lines, with lawmakers on both sides following their leadership to allow for a vote on legislation even if they don’t agree with its contents.

However, members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus have deliberately sunk GOP rule votes several times this Congress in protest of House Republican leadership’s decisions.

In a stunning turn of events not often seen in modern U.S. politics, Democrats leaped to the foreign aid proposal’s rescue and provided more than enough support to counter the 55 Republican defections — something that further irked Johnson’s right-wing critics.

Not only did Democrats vote for the rule, they outnumbered Republicans in support. It got 165 Democratic ‘yes’ votes compared to 151 Republicans, for a total 316 to 94 margin.

‘We agreed with the objective,’ Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the former House majority leader, told reporters when asked about the overwhelming Democratic support. ‘I think Democrats are going to continue to save the country. And when the speaker proposes something that we think is good for the country, we’re not going to arbitrarily oppose it because it happens to be a Republican proposal.’

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good, R-Va., accused Johnson of dividing the Republican Party but distanced himself from calls for his ouster.

‘Funding Ukraine divides the country. It divides Republicans tremendously, divides the Republican conference, as evidenced by the vote today, just a moment ago. And so that should not be our starting point, to do what the Democrats want to do,’ Good said.

Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, one of the House’s GOP national security hawks, said he was ‘absolutely’ relieved that the bills advanced on Friday but that he was ‘confident’ they would.

Unlike his colleagues who were criticizing the show of bipartisanship, Ellzey said he was glad to see Democrats buck norms to support the rule.

‘I think that, this is a good thing for us now, for our national security, and the assurance of our friends and allies across the world, that we are a steady partner, and it’s bipartisan. Americans come together in times like this,’ he said.

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