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Mike Johnson
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been on an anti-Mike Johnson media blitz since the House adjourned for the two-week recess. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Congress Has a Lot to Do and No Time to Do It

Get ready for a mess.

House Speaker Mike Johnson could get ousted at any moment. The Senate needs to deal with incoming articles of impeachment for the Homeland Security secretary and confirm more of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees. Both bodies need to tackle a reauthorization of spy powers and the Federal Aviation Administration. Multiple foreign aid fights lie ahead. Meanwhile, there’s a one-seat majority in the House, and Republicans are so deeply fractured that even big preelection messaging bills will be hard to pass.

There are only 15 official work weeks left before the November election, and everything is a mess. Here’s what we’re watching when Congress returns this week.

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s effort to oust the speaker

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been on an anti-Mike Johnson media blitz since the House adjourned for the two-week recess.

She filed a motion to vacate the speakership minutes before the House passed a deal to fund the government on a wide bipartisan margin. At the time, she said it was a warning shot to Johnson to stop working with Democrats, but she has since sounded more serious that she’ll go through with the likely chaotic process of forcing the House to vote on giving Johnson the boot.

“This isn’t a Republican speaker we have right now. This is a Democrat speaker of the House,” she told Tucker Carlson on Wednesday. “Because there is zero daylight between what Nancy Pelosi did in the last Congress and what Mike Johnson is doing now as our so-called Republican speaker of the House.”

So far, Greene is mostly on her own. While other conservative members were upset about the spending bills, none besides Greene said a motion to vacate was on the table for them. “Nobody cares what Marjorie Taylor Greene says or thinks. And she’s a one-man show, she’s grandstanding, and she wants attention,” House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good told CNN.

If Greene moves forward, it’s hard to see how the House doesn’t face a long and drawn-out process like the one in September when Rep. Matt Gaetz and others ousted Kevin McCarthy, and it took Republicans three weeks to pick a new speaker.

Johnson said in a statement to NOTUS that he respects Greene and that they “do have honest differences on strategy sometimes but share the same conservative beliefs.”

“In spite of our Republican majority of just a single seat in just one chamber of Congress, we are still fighting this administration every day to make policy changes,” he said. “A shutdown would not serve our party or assist us in our mission of saving the republic by growing our majority, nor will another motion to vacate.”

Ukraine aid

Johnson has told lawmakers that national security aid for Ukraine was on the table after the appropriations process, but there’s still plenty of disagreement on how to get it done.

Johnson may bring aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan together in a combined supplemental or as three stand-alone bills. More lawmakers are discussing the option of loan assistance rather than aid for Ukraine.

Some moderate Republicans, led by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Don Bacon, are still advocating for a bill that includes border provisions, unlike the Senate version passed in February. Johnson has said he’s also open to the idea of trying to lift Biden’s pause on liquefied natural gas export licenses in exchange for Ukraine aid.

Biden also faces mounting pressure to put conditions on Israel aid, and it’s unclear if Democrats will accept a stand-alone bill.

Surveillance powers

In just two weeks, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act expires. House Republicans have tried and failed multiple times to reach consensus on how to extend it.

Johnson pulled FISA bills from the floor in both December and February due to an intraparty disagreement led by two Ohio members. Rep. Michael Turner, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wants a surveillance tool in FISA to be reauthorized. Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wants significant reforms. The rest of Congress is pretty split.

Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole told NOTUS last month he expected Johnson to bring a surveillance reauthorization bill to the floor after the House had passed a spending bill. Expect FISA to take top priority now.

If the two camps remain at an impasse, the House could once again temporarily extend FISA authority as it did through the National Defense Authorization Act in December.

Chuck Schumer
In a letter to colleagues on Friday, Schumer indicated the Senate had a long to-do list. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Baltimore bridge funding

Biden has made clear that he wants the federal government to pay for the reconstruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. That requires congressional approval, and experts estimate it will cost anywhere between $400 million and $1 billion.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week that “the federal government will step up and do the lion’s share of it.” But some Republicans in the House disagree with McConnell’s view.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Dan Meuser said last week that it was “outrageous” for Biden to express that federal funds will pay for the reconstruction in its entirety. “The first reaction, in fact the only reaction, tends to be to spend,” he told Fox Business.

The House Freedom Caucus also wants to put some conditions on the funding. They demanded the Biden administration lift its pause on liquefied natural gas export terminals before Congress considers funding the reconstruction.

With support for the emergency funding expected from Democrats and a majority of Republicans, the Freedom Caucus call shouldn’t change the outcome. In 2007, Congress unanimously approved millions for the reconstruction of a major bridge in Minneapolis days after it collapsed.

Yet another spending bill

Yes, Congress may have just passed a spending bill, but there are only a few months until the deadline for the new fiscal year. Negotiations are already underway.

Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, told NOTUS that because it’s an election year, he predicted that lawmakers would push the matter into the next Congress with a stopgap funding measure instead of passing full spending bills.

Internet access

An estimated 23 million families will face internet service disruptions this month if Congress doesn’t keep the Affordable Connectivity Program running, according to Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. In October, Biden requested Congress to provide $6 billion to keep the program running through the rest of 2024.

“We have come too far to allow this successful effort to promote internet access for all to end,” Rosenworcel said in a letter to lawmakers last week.

Mayorkas’ impeachment trial

The House will send its articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate on Wednesday. GOP leaders have demanded a full trial to lay out their case, but in a Democrat-controlled Senate, it’s unlikely.

“[Chuck] Schumer will be able to file a motion to dismiss or to table. I expect he will do that,” McConnell told the Kentucky Lantern last week. “And the Democrats have the majority, so it may not go on very long. But my preference would be to actually have a trial. But I think the majority is likely to prevent that.”

In a letter to colleagues on Friday, Schumer indicated the Senate would receive the articles of impeachment and that senators would be sworn in as jurors in the trial on Thursday.

TikTok divestment

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill last month to force TikTok to divest from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. So far, there’s been no momentum in the Senate.

Eyes are on Sen. Maria Cantwell regarding whether the Senate Commerce Committee will first hold a hearing on the bill and whether it will be brought to the floor as a stand-alone attached to FAA reauthorization.

Aviation administration authorities

Congress has until May 10 to decide on a long-term reauthorization for the FAA.

The House passed a reauthorization bill in July, but the Senate version has yet to be brought to the floor for a vote. Schumer said in his letter that Cantwell, chair of the Commerce Committee, is “working tirelessly” to finalize an agreement and pass the reauthorization in May.

There’s still disagreement in the two bills on mandatory retirement age for pilots — which the House voted to raise from 65 to 67 — as well as expansion of flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

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Tax bill

A bipartisan House agreement to expand the child tax credit and restore business tax breaks remains in a monthslong limbo over disagreements between Senate Finance Committee leaders, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and GOP Sen. Mike Crapo.

While Schumer has expressed his support for the tax bill, he’s unlikely to bring it to the floor with such a backlog in judicial appointments if the bill doesn’t have the 60 votes needed.

Judicial confirmations

Schumer has 15 work weeks until the election to get Biden’s judicial appointments through the Senate. Since Biden took office, the Senate has confirmed 190 judges. There are currently 25 pending nominees; eight are waiting for floor votes, nine are waiting to be reported out of the Judiciary Committee and another six are waiting on a confirmation hearing, according to the American Constitution Society.

One man standing in Schumer’s way? Joe Manchin. Last month, the retiring senator said he wouldn’t vote for any judges that don’t have at least one GOP senator also in support.

Katherine Swartz is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow. Haley Byrd Wilt, a reporter at NOTUS, contributed to this report.