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House Republicans ramp up Speaker Johnson pressure after budget saga

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House Freedom Caucus member U.S. Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) speaks during a press conference regarding federal government spending on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 12, 2023.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

After six months of budget deadlocks, stopgap funding measures and near-miss government shutdowns, Congress finalized the remaining parts of a permanent spending package for the rest of the fiscal year this weekend.

Before House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., can exhale, he will have to face the House Republican hardliners of the Freedom Caucus.

And they have made it clear that they intend to turn up the heat on the Speaker’s next uphill funding battle: Ukraine.

“I can promise you, if you put a Ukraine bill on the floor and you haven’t secured the border, there’s going to be a problem within the ranks and on Capitol Hill,” said Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy, R-Tx., on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Johnson is already in hot water with the Freedom Caucus for his concessions to pass the budget bill and avert a government shutdown.

“I think Speaker Johnson — I’ve been public about this — made a mistake,” said Roy. “I don’t think this bill was reflective of what the American people want.”

Roy joins a chorus of Republican hardliners who opposed the budget bill as it was being passed through the chambers of Congress over the past several days. Moments after the House voted to pass the budget bill on Friday morning, hardliner Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., filed a motion to oust Johnson from his post.

Johnson made several last-minute moves in order to pass the budget bill before funding ran out on Friday at midnight, after which a partial government shutdown would take effect.

For example, he disobeyed the House’s 72-hour review rule, which requires a 72-hour window after the legislative text is released and before voting so that lawmakers can review the proposals.

He also used an expedited voting procedure that requires two-thirds of votes in favor rather than a simple majority, which meant he would have to seek Democratic support to pass the legislation.

“We have famously the smallest majority in U.S. history,” Johnson said Thursday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “So yeah, by necessity, you have to get both parties to agree to a lot of this.”

Compromising with Democrats was one of the central grievances that led to former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster from his post. He became the first Speaker to be forcibly removed.

McCarthy’s fate has been a specter looming over Johnson’s speakership as he tries to balance the interests of the hardline conservatives who elected him while compromising enough to keep the government running.

With the budget finally agreed upon, the Ukraine funding decision will be more challenging for Johnson to dodge.

Congress has continued to punt Ukraine funding, which has been depleted for months. The House is currently sitting on a $95 billion spending proposal to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel, along with other war-torn regions, which the Senate passed in February.

But Republicans like Roy oppose sustained aid for Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia: “Not one dollar should go to the Ukraine funding — not one dollar — if the border of the United States is wide open.”

The border has become a top voting issue in the 2024 election, mainly after Republicans tanked a spending package that would have provided $20 billion in border funding. Former President Donald Trump fueled Republican dissent, reportedly telling Republicans to oppose the package so as not to deliver Democrats a border victory during this election year.



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