Published 23:32 IST, April 16th 2024

Despite Threat of Removal, US House Speaker Johnson to Push Ahead with Vote on Ukraine, Israel Aid

“I am not resigning,” US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said after a testy morning meeting of fellow House Republicans at the Capitol.

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US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is facing a growing pushback from members of his own party. | Image: AP

Washington: Defiant and determined, House Speaker Mike Johnson pushed back Tuesday against mounting Republican anger over his proposed U.S. aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other allies, and rejected a call to step aside or risk a vote to oust him from office.

“I am not resigning,” Johnson said after a testy morning meeting of fellow House Republicans at the Capitol


Johnson referred to himself as a “wartime speaker” of the House and indicated in his strongest self-defence yet he would press forward with a US national security aid package, a situation that would force him to rely on Democrats to help pass it, over objections from his weakened majority.

“We are simply here trying to do our jobs,” Johnson said, calling the motion to oust him “absurd ... not helpful.”


Tuesday brought a definitive shift in tone from both the House Republicans and the speaker himself at a pivotal moment as the embattled leader tries, against the wishes of his majority, to marshal the votes needed to send the stalled national security aid for Israel, Ukraine and other overseas allies to passage.

Johnson appeared emboldened by his meeting late last week with Donald Trump when the Republican former president threw him a political lifeline with a nod of support after their private talk at Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida.


At his own press conference on Tuesday, Johnson spoke of the importance of ensuring Trump, who is now at his criminal trial in New York, is re-elected to the White House.

A convoluted approach

Johnson also spoke over the weekend with President Joe Biden as well as other congressional leaders about the emerging US aid package, which the speaker plans to move in separate votes for each section — with bills for Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific region. He spoke about it with Biden again late Monday.


It's a complicated approach that breaks apart the Senate's $95 billion aid package for separate votes and then stitches it back together for the president's signature.

The approach will require the speaker to cobble together bipartisan majorities with different factions of House Republicans and Democrats on each measure. Additionally, Johnson is preparing a fourth measure that would include various Republican-preferred national security priorities, such as a plan to seize some Russian assets in U.S. banks to help fund Ukraine and another to turn the economic aid for Ukraine into loans.


The plan is not an automatic deal-breaker for Democrats in the House and Senate, with leaders refraining from comment until they see the actual text of the measure, due out later Tuesday.

House Republicans, however, were livid that Johnson would be leaving their top priority — efforts to impose more security at the US-Mexico border — on the sidelines. Some predicted Johnson will not be able to push ahead with voting on the package this week, as planned.

Representative Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., called the morning meeting an “argument fest.”

She said Johnson was "most definitely'' losing support for the plan, but he seemed undeterred in trying to move forward despite “what the majority of the Conference” of Republicans wanted.

When the speaker said the House GOP's priority border security bill HR 2 would not be considered germane to the package, Representative Chip Roy, R-Texas, a chief sponsor, said it's for the House to determine which provisions and amendments are relevant.

“Things are very unresolved,” Roy said.

Roy said said Republicans want “to be united. They just have to be able to figure out how to do it.”

Threat of removal hangs over Johnson

The speaker faces a threat of ouster from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., the top Trump ally who has filed a motion to vacate the speaker from office in a snap vote — much the way Republicans ousted their former speaker, Kevin McCarthy, last fall.

While Greene has not said if or when she will force the issue and has not found much support for her plan after last year's turmoil over McCarthy's exit, she drew at least one key supporter Tuesday.

Representative Thomas Massie, R-Ky., rose in the meeting and suggested Johnson should step aside, pointing to the example of John Boehner, an even earlier House speaker who announced an early resignation in 2015 rather than risk a vote to oust him, according to Republicans in the room.

“Speaker Johnson must announce a resignation date and allow Republicans to elect a new Speaker to put America First and pass a Republican agenda,” Greene wrote on social media, thanking Massie for his support for her motion to vacate.

Johnson did not respond, according to Republicans in the room, but told the lawmakers they have a "binary" choice" before them.

The speaker explained they either try to pass the package as he is proposing or risk facing a discharge petition from Democrats that would force a vote on their preferred package — the Senate-approved measure. But that would leave behind the extra Republican priorities.

23:32 IST, April 16th 2024