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House Democrats are helping Johnson avoid defeat on foreign aid bills, despite GOP defections

House Democrats are helping Johnson avoid defeat on foreign aid bills, despite GOP defections

The House on Friday removed a key procedural hurdle to passing foreign aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, despite defections from dozens of Republicans, as Democrats helped House Speaker Mike Johnson avoid a bruising defeat.

Shortly after, a third Republican said he would join the threat to oust him.

The House voted 316 to 94 in favor of the bill, setting up a vote Saturday on final passage of $95 billion in foreign aid that has been held up by a political battle in Washington for months.

Procedural votes like Friday's are usually passed by a House majority alone, but Democrats stepped in to help push the legislation forward after Republican hardliners collectively opposed the measure. More Democrats voted for the bills than Republicans.

“Democrats will, once again, be the adults in the room,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said during the debate leading up to the vote.

As he left the House floor after the vote, Johnson said the four foreign aid bills were “the best possible product” under the circumstances. “We look forward to the final passage of the bill tomorrow.”

The individual bills provide nearly $26 billion for Israel, $61 billion for Ukraine, and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific region. These measures are similar to legislation passed by a bipartisan group in the Senate last February, which tied all the aid together into one measure.

The fourth bill included in foreign aid contains conservative priorities like a TikTok ban bill, sanctions on Iran, and legislation to seize Russian assets to help provide funding for Ukraine.

“Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan are on the front lines of the struggle to preserve democracy around the world,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, said during the debate. “In the case of Ukraine and Israel, these two countries are in real danger.”

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Pressure has increased on lawmakers to pass the aid after the unprecedented Iranian attacks on Israel over the weekend.

Johnson pushed ahead with foreign aid measures, calling them pivotal, despite opposition from his party's right wing and looming threats to his office.

A third Republican member of the House of Representatives, Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, announced after Friday's vote his support for the proposal to vacate the House Speaker's chair, which was first presented by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene last month. In a statement, Gosar expressed his frustration at moving forward with providing aid to Ukraine instead of providing resources to the southern border.

“We need a president who puts America first instead of caving in to the reckless demands of warmongers, neocons and the military-industrial complex that makes billions from a costly, endless war half a world away,” Gosar said.

Three Republicans supporting the eviction motion would be enough to remove Johnson, unless Democrats decide to help defend the Republican speaker.

On his way to the House floor for the vote, ABC News' White House correspondent Selena Wang asked Johnson if he was concerned about the possibility of being ousted.

Johnson replied: “I'm not worried. I'm just doing my job.”

But GOP hardliners expressed frustration with Johnson and his approach to the issue during the debate.

“I am concerned that the Speaker of the House has cut a deal with Democrats to fund foreign wars instead of securing the border,” said Rep. Thomas Massie.

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Massie, a Kentucky Republican, earlier this week called on Johnson to resign and joined Greene's eviction proposal.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, also objected to “another $100 million in war funding, unpaid, with no border security — under a rule that Republicans should oppose because it is a pre-designed process to achieve a pre-determined desired outcome.” Without security on the borders.

“It was all pre-cooked,” Roy said. “That's why President Biden and Chuck Schumer praised her.”

Meanwhile, Democrats criticized Republicans for causing dysfunction in the chamber.

“I would just say to my colleagues: Look what MAGA extremism has brought you: Nothing. Nothing, not a damn thing,” said Rep. McGovern, who also told his colleagues. “You're doing your damn job.”

He added, “We are in a divided government. No one will get everything they want.” “I hope that today’s vote will loosen the grip of extremism on this body, especially when it comes to supporting our allies.”

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, also a Democratic member of the House Rules Committee, also condemned the delay in approving the aid: “Congress will finally vote… Why did it take us so long?”

Before the vote, the White House issued a statement of administration policy supporting the bills, calling them “long overdue” and actions that would “send a strong message about the strength of American leadership at a pivotal moment.”