Speaker Johnson: So, About That Ukraine Funding…

Speaker Johnson: So, About That Ukraine Funding…

Speaker Johnson: So, About That Ukraine Funding…

Mike Johnson might have the most thankless job in Washington D.C. right now. He has to herd the Republican caucus while performing a political balancing act that acknowledges that the slim majority that the GOP once had has now shrunk to something razor-thin.

It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Republican representatives have been locked in this pattern of chaos ever since it took 15 rounds of voting to confirm Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House (while the Democrats sat smugly in the House chamber, voting in lockstep). McCarthy compromised with a deal for a one-vote “motion to vacate” trigger, which he apparently never thought would be used against him. Well, it was, and ever since then, House Republican leadership has been in disarray. Which then led to some Republicans throwing in the towel and resigning early (McCarthy included, after being ousted as Speaker), leading an even thinner majority, which means even MORE compromise to get a budget passed, which leads to MORE unhappy Republicans, which leads to talk that Speaker Johnson is on the hot seat for cutting the deal in the first place – and a Donald Trump who is seriously annoyed at the resigning GOP members.

You know who is enjoying this spectacle? The Democrats. They firmly believe that Speaker Johnson could be over a barrel very soon over the continued funding for Ukraine, and needing their help – which means bigger concessions for THEM. Both Representative Don Bacon (R-NE) and Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC) can see it coming.

“I’m not going to deny it,” Bacon, R-Neb., said when asked by moderator Kristen Welker on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” whether it’s possible Johnson could lose his speakership over Ukraine aid.

“We have one or two people that are not team players. They’d rather enjoy the limelight, the social media,” Bacon added, though he did not name any members.

“It’s a very narrow majority, and one or two people can make us a minority,” he said.

“We put a bill together that focuses on military aid — a $66 billion bill that provides military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan,” Bacon told Welker, calling for a “bicameral, bipartisan solution.”

“If we do this bill, and I think we will, there’s enough support in the House to get this done. And I want to make sure that we have support in the Senate,” Bacon said.

Bacon maintained that he hopes “the speaker prevails. He’s doing the right thing.”

He also suggested that Democrats could join several Republicans in helping save Johnson’s speakership.

“I do think there will be Democrats, though, who do not want to see this dysfunction. And I think they’ll probably vote present or maybe not be there for a vote,” Bacon said.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., indicated earlier Sunday that there’s a scenario in which Bacon could be correct.

“Would you protect [Johnson] if there was a move to oust him for bringing Ukraine aid to the floor?” Welker asked Clyburn earlier on “Meet the Press.”

“I stand in support of our leader, [House Minority Leader] Hakeem Jeffries,” Clyburn said, adding: “If he were to call me and say, ‘Look, I would like to have your vote in support of Johnson,’ he’s got it.”

Joe Biden has decided that Ukraine funding is absolutely the hill he is willing to die on – possibly because he sees Ukraine as his one and only foreign policy success (“success” is a loose term and considering his failures everywhere else, it’s not his worst bet) – and as a result, the Democrats are going to do their utmost to get him that funding “win.” Would they protect Speaker Johnson in order to get Ukraine funding passed in the House? I’m highly skeptical. After all, if Speaker Johnson ends up being ousted, the Democrats are under no obligation to save him, and the chaos that follows either hamstrings the Republican majority, or results in Hakeem Jeffries being Speaker. Either of those outcomes are a net benefit to Democrats. And as while Rep. Bacon didn’t name names, we all know who filed the motion to vacate – and that she could definitely pull the trigger on the motion over Ukraine funding.

Before the chamber left for a two-week recess ahead of Easter, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., submitted a motion to vacate, which could lead to a House vote to oust Johnson as speaker.

Greene did not file the motion as privileged, though, which would have forced the House to vote on the motion within 48 hours.

Shortly after she filed the motion, Greene warned, “He should not bring funding for Ukraine” to the floor.

What does Speaker Johnson have to say for himself? He sat for an interview with Trey Gowdy on Sunday evening to discuss what has been happening in the House.

In an interview on “Sunday Night in America With Trey Gowdy,” Johnson stressed the difficult position he’s in, with a historically narrow House majority, but said that he was working throughout the current work period to come up with a package and plans to put it on the floor when the House gavels back into session.

“Look, what we have to do in an era of divided government – historically, as we are – you got to build consensus. If we want to move a partisan measure, I got to have every single member, literally,” Johnson said. “And some things need to be bipartisan.”

“But when it comes to the supplemental, we’ve been working to build that consensus. We’ve been talking to all the members especially now over the district work period. When we return after this work period, we’ll be moving a product, but it’s going to, I think, have some important innovations,” Johnson said.

Among the possibilities? A little creative accounting, apparently.

Johnson floated as examples the possibilities of extending a loan to Ukraine – an idea that gained some traction earlier this month, as a way to back Ukraine in a way that might assuage conservative concerns about providing more aid as Ukraine fights against Russian aggression.

Johnson also mentioned the REPO for Ukrainians Act, which would authorize the president to seize Russian sovereign assets frozen in the U.S. and give them to Ukraine to use against Russia.

“The REPO Act, you know, if we can use the seized assets of Russian oligarchs to allow the Ukrainians to fight them, that’s just pure poetry,” Johnson said. “Even President Trump has talked about the loan concept, where … we’re not just giving foreign aid. We’re setting it up in a relationship where they can provide it back to us when the time is right.”

The one down side of taking Russian assets and handing them over to Ukraine is that we are still trying to get back American citizens being held on trumped-up charges in Russia – and Vladimir Putin is unlikely to let them be traded out of the goodness of his heart anyway. Taking frozen Russian assets? Expect the price tag for ransoming any American citizens out of Russia to exponentially rise.

There is one highly practical thing that Speaker Johnson wants to do that would have full Republican support. Which means the Biden administration would never do it.

Johnson added that, in an effort to “unleash American energy,” he wants “to have natural gas exports that will help un-fund Vladimir Putin’s war effort there, you know,” he said, adding, “There’s a lot of things that we should do that … make more sense and that I think we’ll have consensus around.”

“We’re putting that product together and we’ll be moving it right after the district work period,” Johnson said.

It would be fantastic if Speaker Johnson had the leverage to arm-twist the Biden administration into turning on the liquid natural gas spigot again, because that really WOULD undercut Putin’s customer base in Europe. But considering the House has already passed legislation to do so, and it has stalled in the Senate, I can’t see Biden’s Energy Department, which is deeply in thrall to the left and funding all sorts of “green” projects, stopping their “pause” on LNG. Even if that meant delivering money to Ukraine and hurting Putin.

We are going to have to see what Speaker Johnson does present, but if Marjorie Taylor Greene does go through with her motion to vacate, it will be yet another own goal for Republicans, and launch another cycle of chaos that no one really wants to deal with right now.

Featured image: Mike Johnson, official Congressional portrait by Ike Hayman, cropped, public domain

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  • Wfjag says:

    The Republican Circular Firing Squad got us Biden. They seem intent on getting something worse – Biden, then Harris, with Dem control of both the Senate and House, stagflation and Americans directly involved in wars in Ukraine (and some shooting in Poland and the Baltic countries), Taiwan (and some of the P.I’s South China Sea islands), the ME (with a “Joint” US-Israeli Command for Gaza, and then Lebanon, when Hezbola attacks), and possibly in South America when Venezuela (with Chinese support) invades its neighbor.

    These are all developing. All it will take is a few Republican True Believers who are more concerned with ideological purity than the messy business of governing to open the doors to these, and worse.

    • GWB says:

      So, you advocate winning just for winning’s sake, and to wield power?
      To what end? Because a lot of the folks who are labelled “GOPe” happen to think all of those things are just fine and dandy.

      You’re deluding yourself if you think that Republicans winning, with the large batch of Progressives that currently hold sway, will suddenly allow all of those things you want to come true. It hasn’t before, so why should it now?

  • Mad Celt says:

    Time to kick Republicans to the curb and hope they drag their Democrat overlords with them.

  • Stephen C says:

    I know this will sound like I am being unreasonable but. Why don’t we start with an Audit? An accounting of the money we have sent to Ukraine to date. We can talk about sending more of our money once we know what they’ve done with the money already given. Until that happens, no to more dough.

    • SFC D says:

      It’s not even possible to get an accurate audit of where our own military has spent their budget. Auditing the billions given to Ukraine is going to be completely impossible. I doubt we could show that the money even got there.

  • GWB says:

    We have one or two people that are not team players.
    Well, honestly, your team is not what they came to Washington to play for, in many cases. They came to represent their constituents, not the DC Club.

    I do not consider the fight over McCarthy to have been a distraction. As a matter of fact, it was exactly where the focus needs to be – what are the principles of the Republican caucus in Congress? If they are “let’s be the loyal opposition and do Progressivism, but more slowly and with lower taxes” then expect a vast amount of folks to fight against you. If they are “Constitution, morals, law and order, and protection of our country” then you can expect my backing. The kind of “C’mon, you gotta compromise your morals and your principles to help ‘your’ team” talk is why so many conservative Americans are talking about letting it all burn.

  • Hate_me says:

    Kick him to the curb. His performance expectations were laid out in no uncertain terms and he has failed to meet them. Who gives a shit what the democrats want? If they’re going to be gradually handed the win, anyway, I’d rather they win quick and drastically so everyone else wakes up to what’s really going on.

    Compromise is the foundation of democracy, but this is not compromise. This is gradually giving ground, walking back constitutional principle in the interests of living to fight another day.

    This is the playbook of Democrat foreign policy – fickle red lines and no real plan when the enemy crosses them; it is not an acceptable approach to governance.

    • GWB says:

      Compromise is the foundation of democracy
      Nope. The foundation of our Republic is self-governance. That is, doing what’s right because it’s right, not just because you fear the consequences. Compromise is just compromise. It’s like “Change”; Change isn’t good, it’s just change. Good change is good, bad change is bad.

      As long as everyone is basing their decisions on the same principles and has the same goals, then compromise is usually a good thing. When one side wants to drag the entire group over to an entirely different place, compromise – of any level – is going to be bad for the group who wants to stay where they are. And when that entirely different place is Hell on Earth, it’s absolutely bad.

      (Progressive Lie #48)

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