US House Democrats offer to protect Republican Johnson for Ukraine aid

By Thomson Reuters Mar 22, 2024 | 2:47 PM

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats, who helped Republican hardliners oust Kevin McCarthy as U.S. House of Representatives speaker last year, said on Friday that they could protect Speaker Mike Johnson from a similar fate if he allowed a vote on stalled aid to Ukraine.

Comments to that effect from several House Democrats followed a decision by Republican firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene to file a motion seeking Johnson’s ouster over a $1.2 trillion bipartisan spending bill needed to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight.

Without offering evidence, the Georgia Republican said she has support from other Republicans. Some hardliners have already made noises about ousting Johnson, if he moved a stalled $95 billion Senate bill to aid Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies.

Johnson has refused to allow a floor vote on the bill, but has promised to address Ukraine aid when lawmakers return from a two-week break in April.

“Speaker Johnson always listens to the concerns of members, but is focused on governing,” a spokesperson for the speaker said. “He will continue to push conservative legislation that secures our border, strengthens our national defense and demonstrates how we’ll grow our majority.”

But some Democrats hoped Greene’s motion to vacate Johnson’s office, though not imminent, might encourage him to take a more bipartisan path to stay in office with their protection.

“I will make common cause in alliance with anybody who will stand up for democracy and human rights,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, a prominent Democrat who views opposition to Ukraine aid among Donald Trump’s allies, including Greene, as a benefit to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Maybe Speaker Johnson decides that this is the moment to declare his independence from the Putin-Trump-MAGA wing of the Republican Party and stand up for democracy and freedom around the world,” Raskin added, referring to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan.

Other Democrats, including Representative Abigail Spanberger, also said they could support Johnson in exchange for movement on the Senate bill.

“Subsequent to that, a non-serious actor who doesn’t want to govern brings a motion to vacate? Yes, I would motion to table in that circumstance,” Spanberger said.

Greene did not mention Ukraine as she lambasted Johnson after the House passed a bill that she opposed to fund the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and other agencies, with overwhelming support from Democrats. Less than half of Johnson’s 219-member Republican conference backed the bill.

“I don’t think that the American people, Republican voters across the country, want to see a Republican speaker that’s held in place by Democrats,” Greene told reporters.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Nick Macfie)