© 2024 Allbritton Journalism Institute
Mike Johnson
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Leadership Relied on Democrats, and Aggravated Their Own Members, to Move on Foreign Aid

“It was a drunken walk to a very good conclusion,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry.

More than four dozen House Republicans voted against a procedural step forward on Speaker Mike Johnson’s national security package, leaving the party’s bitter fractures more transparent by the minute.

“I don’t even need to offer an opinion, I think that’s obvious,” said Rep. Dan Meuser, when asked whether Johnson’s speakership is in peril.

Meuser joined the majority of the conference in voting to advance the bills, along with a majority of Democrats. Fifty-five Republicans and 39 Democrats voted against the rule, which now sets up Saturday votes on separate foreign aid bills that will be recombined in a single bill for the Senate.

Depending on who you ask, Republicans see the vote as either a positive sign of bipartisan support for Ukraine and Israel or as a “uniparty” rule led by Johnson that must be stopped.

Following the vote, Rep. Paul Gosar joined Reps. Thomas Massie and Marjorie Taylor Greene in co-sponsoring a motion to vacate the speaker. Of the other 52 that voted against the rule, some are on the fence about Johnson’s future.

“I don’t recognize the person, I don’t recognize who he is,” freshman Rep. Eric Burlison told NOTUS of Johnson.

“This is definitely a Liz Cheney-type of vote, and these are Liz Cheney-type of leaders,” he said.

House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good said that it isn’t a “wise course of action” to vacate the speakership now, and new leadership elections should wait until the next Congress when, he hopes, more conservative candidates are elected to Congress and can have their say.

“We had a process to try to select a speaker; there were multiple candidates, and we ended up selecting a candidate who has failed us,” Good said. “That doesn’t mean that now you should take the same actions that you took in September when you are in a different situation.”

Rep. Ralph Norman — who voted against his party in the Rules Committee, something that was once nearly unthinkable — also said it wasn’t time to remove Johnson from leadership.

“In his mind, he’s doing what he thinks is right. I can’t criticize him for that,” he said.

Still, Republicans on both sides of the rule vote said it marks a turn. A standard procedure, previously almost exclusively passed along party lines, has now become a standard mechanism for conservatives to try and block Republican leadership’s agenda.

“On the Republican side, we’ve always been free to vote up or down on a bill based on your constituency. But this is new territory when rules are being used for leverage,” Rep. Ryan Zinke said.

Rep. Chip Roy, who also voted against the rule in committee, said this Congress is the start of a “new normal” where “policies are being advanced with more Democrats than Republicans at every turn.”

However, for Republicans who have long pushed for foreign security funding to get to the floor, the rule vote is just another step in the right direction toward the long-awaited final passage of aid to Israel and Ukraine.

“It was a drunken walk to a very good conclusion,” Rep. Patrick McHenry said. “The conclusion was good; the process was bad. But the conclusion is what’s going to save people’s lives.”

Katherine Swartz is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow. NOTUS’ Casey Murray, Haley Byrd Wilt, and Ben T.N. Mause contributed reporting.