Johnson brushes off conservative pushback, tries to lower expectations

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) defended the rollout of a four-bill package on Wednesday that has come under fire from the conservative wing of the House GOP, appearing to lower expectations for Republicans given the party’s razor-thin majority.

A trio of foreign aid bills will include military assistance to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific with humanitarian aid for Gaza and other global hot spots, while a fourth would add other national security priorities more palatable to hard-line conservatives like a TikTok ban, the seizure of Russian assets and additional sanctions against Iran.

“We’re not going to get 100 percent of what we want right now, because we have the smallest majority in history,” Johnson said in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper on Wednesday. “By definition, we won’t get everything we want.”

“But we got a great product here, at the end much better than the alternative that came in the Senate supplemental,” he continued. “And now everybody gets to vote their conscience up or down. That’s what we’re for. Regular process, regular order and accountability to the people, and I think you’ll see that here this week.”

The right wing of the House GOP has blasted Johnson for pursuing separate votes, claiming that the Speaker is teaming up with Democrats. Many have also demanded Johnson include border security in the package, but the Speaker said that just isn’t possible.

“I’m operating with the smallest margin in U.S. history. I have a one-vote margin, Jake,” he said. “So in order to get something into this underlying package, we have to have the votes on the floor to pass a rule.”

“I don’t have all my Republicans who agree on that rule,” he added. “And that means the only way to get a rule on the floor is that it requires a couple of Democrats. Well, they’re not for the border security. That’s not their policy.”

Johnson, who has insisted for months that border security and foreign aid be connected, has now reversed, committing instead to pursue a separate border security measure after this package.

The Speaker emphasized that the foreign aid spending is critical for the country and said he’s “confident” the House will pass the package, though he did not say if he expects support from Democrats.

“We know the urgency in Ukraine and in Israel, and we’re going to stand by Israel, our close ally and dear friend, and we’re going to stand for freedom and make sure that Vladimir Putin doesn’t march through Europe,” Johnson said, referring to the Russian president. “These are important responsibilities, but a strong America is good for the entire world.”

Johnson also faces a motion to vacate headed by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Just two Republicans could oust the Speaker if all Democrats vote with them. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said he would support Greene’s measure, though multiple Democrats have said they would vote against the motion.

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