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Bob Good
Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good called the vote plan “a joke.”
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

‘It’s Theater’: Conservatives Are Furious With Mike Johnson’s Attempt to Appease Them on the Border

Johnson’s compromise of a separate border bill is not only failing to appeal to conservatives but is sparking a threat to his speakership.

The House Freedom Caucus isn’t buying Speaker Mike Johnson’s efforts to appease them as he pushes foreign aid — and he may be about to enrage them even more.

In an effort to bring conservatives on board with his national security plan, Johnson is pushing for a border bill vote on Saturday along with his four-bill package that includes aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

But members of the Freedom Caucus want the border bill to be directly attached to Ukraine aid. Without their votes, Johnson would have to court Democrats to move forward with his long-awaited aid bills.

“It’s not real. It’s pretend, it’s theater,” House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good told NOTUS of the plan to add a border vote. “The only way we would get any real action from the Senate and the administration on the border would be if it was included with something they really wanted, like Ukraine. Obviously, it’s a joke that will not be taken up by the Senate.”

Johnson now has five bills to get to the floor. Along with foreign aid, the House is expected to vote on a fourth bill with provisions not included in the Senate’s aid package, including on TikTok. The fifth will be similar to the House’s previously passed border bill, H.R. 2, two sources aware of Johnson’s plan told NOTUS.

But before the floor, Johnson has to contend with the Rules Committee, where the plan will need Democratic support given opposition from Republican Reps. Chip Roy, Ralph Norman and Thomas Massie (who has called for Johnson to resign).

“The border has got to be attached to something the Senate wants. The only thing they want to have is Ukraine,” Norman said.

Johnson asked the three Republicans to attend a special classified briefing on Ukraine later Wednesday, Norman said.

Other Republicans remain undecided about whether they’ll support a rule on the package. Rep. Ben Cline said he questioned the strategy of splitting up border measures from aid.

“When the structure is egregious enough, then I feel obligated to vote against a rule,” Cline said. “And this construct is pretty egregious.”

“If you truly want to leverage one against the others, then you put them all together,” he continued. “If you just want to do it for show because you know that the Senate is going to defeat one, then keep them separate.”

Despite outcry from conservatives, the majority of Republicans support voting for the underlying rule, even if they won’t vote for the foreign aid bills. Rep. Kevin Hern, chair of the Republican Study Committee, told NOTUS he had heard as many as 30 to 40 Republicans plan to vote against the procedural rule.

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Other Republicans said they’re left frustrated by the divisions within their conference.

“Unfortunately, there’s some people around here that just aren’t team players,” Rep. G.T. Thompson said. “The fact that a handful, one or two now, can manipulate what are procedural votes, I resent that. The fact that they prevent me from exercising my constitutional duties to vote on a bill, it just speaks poorly, I think, of those individuals.”

Even with the growing number frustrated by Johnson’s approach to the border, only Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Massie have publicly called for Johnson to resign.

“Listen, with Mike, it’s different,” Norman said. “With [Kevin] McCarthy, I knew we weren’t going to get anywhere. With him, he listens.”

Katherine Swartz is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.