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Pete Aguilar, Ted Lieu
Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Ted Lieu and Chair Pete Aguilar said they are ready to help pass foreign aid — with a caveat. Jose Luis Magana/AP

House Democrats Aren’t Committing to Save Mike Johnson Just Yet

“There’s no option off the table right now,” Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar said of the effort to pass foreign aid.

While Republicans sort out another messy policy fight within their conference, Democrats are anxiously waiting to see if it all falls apart.

Democratic leadership on Tuesday made clear that the ball is in Republicans’ court to pass Speaker Mike Johnson’s new foreign aid package. This could be bad news for Johnson, who might need their support for both the bills and to maintain his speakership. Until they see the text for the foreign aid bills, which will now address aid to Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel separately, they will not commit to supporting them.

Democrats still want a vote on the Senate-passed bill that included humanitarian assistance and military aid, and Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Ted Lieu warned that a House package without those measures wouldn’t get their votes.

“If Speaker Johnson’s version is missing one of these components, it’s highly unlikely Democrats would support it,” Lieu told reporters. “So we’re waiting to see.”

Still, Democrats seemed amenable to what Johnson might offer.

“I don’t think it should have taken this long. I think it’s made the Republican conference look really clumsy,” Texas Democrat Marc Veasey said after a caucus meeting. “But if it works and it’s going to help and it’s going to help maintain democracy, then I’m for it.”

Leadership echoed that sentiment, along with the White House.

“We’re waiting to see the speaker’s plan in detail and will discuss the best path forward with House Democrats and Senate leadership,” a White House official told Politico.

But Democrats are keeping their options open — and watching closely to see if Republican infighting tanks or delays the effort. The Republican conference has struggled to reach a consensus on rules votes and bills in the past, and Democrats are not promising to bail him out on this one.

“It’s up to Speaker Johnson, as we’ve said before, to deliver votes in the Rules Committee and to pass the rules,” Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar said. “I know that they have a tough time working together and passing pieces of legislation or taking down their own rules. We’re less concerned about that.”

He said the Democrats are focused on seeing the text, not helping Republicans hold a successful vote.

And, he said, they remain open to all options to pass foreign aid, including a discharge petition that would surpass Johnson and allow the Senate’s bill to go to the floor.

“There’s no option off the table right now,” Aguilar said.

Democrats are also taking a wait-and-see approach to the effort to remove Johnson from leadership, which gained steam on Tuesday with a second Republican backing the motion. Though Aguilar seemed to suggest Democrats wouldn’t support a motion to oust Johnson at the moment, leadership also refrained from offering Johnson clear support.

“We don’t like the chaos and dysfunction. We’ve been down this road before,” Aguilar said. “We can’t control the theatrics of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the House Republican Conference, but we stand willing to work with anyone who wants to deliver on that help and support.”

Casey Murray is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.