Mike Johnson tries a new strategy to pass House legislation while keeping his job.

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Today's read: 12 minutes.

The Speaker tries a new strategy in the House. Plus, an explanation on funding for Israel.

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Quick hits.

  1. The Supreme Court seemed divided on the question of whether prosecutors improperly stretched federal law to charge participants in the January 6 riots. (The case)
  2. Seven jurors were chosen in Donald Trump’s trial in New York, and the overseeing judge said opening statements could begin as soon as Monday. (The selections)
  3. The impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will begin in the Senate today. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is expected to quickly move to dismiss or table the two impeachment articles. (The trial)
  4. Voting technology company Smartmatic and cable news network One America News announced a settlement over false claims the network made about Smartmatic’s machines in the 2020 presidential election. (The settlement)
  5. NPR Senior Editor Uri Berliner said in an interview that the network had “lost America’s trust” by pushing progressive views. Berliner has been suspended for five days. (The suspension)

Today's topic.

House Speaker Mike Johnson. In a closed-door meeting of Republican legislators on Monday, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) announced a new plan for voting on foreign aid that will split the $95 billion foreign aid package passed by the Senate into four different bills. The House would then vote on the bills funding Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan separately, with a fourth bill addressing other Republican priorities and sources of funding for the aid. The move comes in response to pressure facing the Speaker to align divisions within his own party, which uniformly urges support for Israel but whose right flank opposes any additional funding for Ukraine. 

Wednesday morning, just before publication, Johnson shared a Dear Colleague letter outlining his plan for the votes in more detail. According to the Johnson's letter, the House Rules Committee will share the text of the bills later today, as will the text of a separate border security bill. Additionally, Johnson confirmed that the fourth bill would incorporate policies from the REPO Act (a bill that would enable the U.S. to seize Russian assets), a lend-lease option for Ukraine funding, additional sanctions against Iran, and the forced divestiture of TikTok by Chinese company ByteDance.

The House Freedom Caucus (HFC) has made the Senate bill, which included $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, a non-starter. HFC member Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) has already introduced a motion to vacate Johnson as Speaker for passing a budget with the cooperation of more Democrats than Republicans, and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said he would co-sponsor the motion in response to the Speaker’s plan, suggesting that Johnson “pre-announce” his resignation.

"I am not resigning," Johnson said. "And it is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs."

Despite the dissatisfaction with Johnson among some members of the Republican party, others oppose bringing a motion to vacate against the speaker. “I like Marjorie, I like Massie, but that’s not what a motion to vacate was designed for, it was designed for scandal,” said Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA). 

Republicans have a 218-213 advantage in the House, down from 222-213, with four vacancies whittling down their majority. That means Johnson would only be able to lose two Republican votes and still retain the gavel. 

However, some Democrats have indicated that they would vote to retain him if he oversees a successful vote to fund Ukraine. “My position hasn’t changed. Massie wants the world to burn, I won’t stand by and watch. I have a bucket of water,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) tweeted

Today, we’ll get into what the right and left think about Speaker Johnson’s plan and the motion to vacate. Then, I’ll give my take.

What the right is saying.

  • The right is mixed on Johnson’s plan, with some pushing for aid to Israel and Ukraine by any means necessary.
  • Others say passing Ukraine aid could mean the end of his speakership.
  • Still others frame this moment as Johnson’s greatest test as speaker.

The New York Post editorial board said “go for it, Speaker Johnson: Israel and Ukraine need American aid NOW.” 

“Kudos to the speaker for standing up to the fringe elements in the GOP who are doing their best to dethrone him and stop the aid flows. After Iran’s massive weekend attack, it’s impossible to deny that Israel needs US help urgently,” the board wrote. “Passing an aid bill will not only be a direct investment in regional security against Iran’s ambitions, it will salve at least some of the wounds inflicted on the US-Israel relationship by the Biden administration. The time has come for the GOP to set aside its internal divisions over the issue and simply get the job done; thanks to a razor-thin House majority, there’s no other way. 

“That goes for Ukraine as well,” the board added. “Backing Ukraine is backing the postwar liberal order, the order under which America largely enjoyed peace and rose to unfathomable economic and military pre-eminence. These are unfashionable causes among some loud Republicans… But bowing to short-term political pressure on long-term strategic necessities would only deepen the global disaster wrought by the foreign policy emanating from the current White House.”

In PJ Media, Rick Moran suggested “Speaker Johnson is preparing to walk the plank on Ukraine aid.”

“At stake is whether Republicans want to be a governing party or a party of chaos. They can't be both but some members apparently can't make up their minds,” Moran wrote. “If he refuses to bring Ukraine aid to the floor, Johnson and the Republicans would be perceived as responsible for a Ukraine defeat. If he brings the $60 billion Ukraine aid package to the floor, the 55% of Republicans who oppose funding for the war would see it as a betrayal.

“Rewarding Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine is not a good look for the GOP for the upcoming election. But supplying Ukraine with resources to resist Russia while not giving the border patrol the means and manpower necessary to slow the influx of illegal immigrants at the border would anger many Republicans,” Moran said. “Some Democrats oppose aid to Israel because of the high number of civilian casualties claimed by Hamas. There may be enough pro-Ukraine Republicans and pro-Israel Democrats to pass the bill. Will it mean the end of his speakership?”

In National Review, Audrey Fahlberg wrote about “Mike Johnson’s next challenge.”

“The idea, it seems, is for leadership to merge whatever passes into a single national-security package that will then head to the Senate for another vote,” Fahlberg said. “Johnson, who has long pledged to pass Ukraine funding and now faces immense pressure to pass Israel aid after Iran’s weekend attack, has insisted that the Senate’s package has no chance of passing his fractious and slim GOP majority. To appease on-the-fence House GOP members, the speaker has said he will allow an open amendment process on the bill text.” 

“The stakes are high for the speaker, though it’s far from clear that there’s an appetite to depose him that extends beyond Massie and Greene,” Fahlberg wrote. “Electorally speaking, booting another speaker just six months into his tenure isn’t exactly a winning message for House Republicans. Not that bad headlines are a top concern for a member like Greene… Moral of the story? Johnson’s seen better days.”

What the left is saying.

  • The left is critical of far-right Republicans who threaten Johnson to stall aid to Ukraine.
  • Some applaud Johnson for moving ahead with a plan to assist all three countries. 
  • Others say Johnson’s position as speaker is untenable. 

In The Washington Post, Josh Rogin said “MAGA is using Israel to undermine Ukraine, harming them both.”

“Johnson is trying to strike a compromise. Splitting the bills into separate votes allows anti-Ukraine Republicans to vote against that funding and progressive Democrats to vote against the Israel funding — but both measures could still pass. That compromise, however, didn’t satisfy far-right members of Johnson’s caucus,” Rogin wrote. “Johnson’s current effort shows that he is still trying to placate his far-right base but is also genuinely trying to get Israel and Ukraine funding done. Democrats are right to support this effort, and the Senate should pass Johnson’s aid package quickly.”

If his plan fails, “the MAGA drive to fully separate Israel aid and kill Ukraine aid will resurface and pick up more steam. Even if it succeeds, a larger lesson must be learned about not pitting U.S. allies against each other. By pointing to Israel as a reason to abandon Ukraine, Republicans such as Greene and Gaetz are further politicizing the Israel issue, exacerbating the suffering of Ukrainians, and preventing U.S. leaders in both parties from finding the political compromises needed to ensure the security of Israel, Ukraine and the United States alike.”

The Times-Picayune editorial board wrote about “Mike Johnson, Ukraine and Congress — again.”

“We believe removing Johnson is a bad idea, and not just because he's our first home-state speaker,” the board said. “In his six months at the helm of the most chaotic branch of Congress, Johnson, who is deeply conservative, has shown a laudable willingness to deal forthrightly and even negotiate across the aisle when needed. And he's needed to often, given his paper-thin majority and his colleagues' penchant for internecine feuds.”

“In spite of the risk, we urge Johnson and his colleagues to support the $95 billion bipartisan spending package,” the board wrote. “It is disappointing that support for Ukraine's war against Russia has become a flashpoint for some Republicans. Vladimir Putin's imperialist aggression is not just a regional threat. It is a global one. Sending aid to the beleaguered Black Sea nation protects not just American interests, but those of our allies all over Europe. It also sends a strong message to other nations which may have expansionist inclinations.”

In MSNBC, Hayes Brown argued “Mike Johnson is already running a coalition government in the House.”

“I appreciate that Johnson has at least finally begun to embrace the need for Ukraine funding, despite the opposition of some of his more hard-line members. But the speaker needs to acknowledge the uncomfortable reality of his tenure: While on paper Johnson leads a Republican majority, in practice, he oversees a coalition government in all but name,” Brown said. “As we’ve seen for the last 15 months, there are enough members in the GOP’s far-right faction who routinely stand in the way of passing what would normally be considered party-line votes.”

“Johnson has repeatedly relied heavily on Democrats to provide the votes necessary to perform routine government functions. It’s an untenable situation under Congress’ current structures and processes, one that the Ukraine and Israel funding question only exacerbates for Johnson,” Brown wrote. “Something is going to have to give here: Johnson can accept reality and lean into the fact that only the Democrats can help him get critical bills over the line, or he can remain loyal in the eyes of the far right in the name of preventing a revolt.”

My take.

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  • Let’s remember that tying aid and border funding together was the Republicans’ original strategy — one they later eschewed.
  • I think more funding to Ukraine is going to get passed, Johnson is playing his cards well, and the HFC is going to regret not coming to the table.
  • Regardless of how we got here, I like that we’re dealing with separate issues separately.

Before we get into the specifics of this plan, I think it’s worth quickly remembering something that seems to have been memory-holed: There were agreements on the table not so long ago to tie foreign aid for these countries to a border bill

At first, Republicans were the ones proposing that idea. The thought was that if they tied border security requests to foreign aid funding, which is the kind of thing that always seems to end up getting passed, they could push through their border security wishes. Democrats initially rejected this idea, saying Republicans were only trying to tank aid to Ukraine. But then they started to play ball. Negotiations that devolved into shouting matches eventually yielded an actual bill — the Senate’s border bill — which included Republican and Democratic wishes on the border along with funding for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan.

I had mixed feelings about that. I argued both that the border bill would improve the situation we were in right now but also that it was expensive and imperfect, naturally. I was opposed, in theory, to tying two things as disparate as Ukraine aid and southern border policy together in the same bill, but also understood the politics that had created the situation.

But I also wondered if Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus were making a big tactical mistake by opposing the bill. I have said to many friends and colleagues privately that I thought aid to Ukraine was always going to end up getting passed, though I suspected it would be delayed (I am broadly supportive of continuing to aid Ukraine, an argument I last made here). I believe this because Democrats have the majority in the Senate and control of the White House, because many House Republicans support funding Ukraine, and because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) supports funding Ukraine. In other words, the “don’t fund Ukraine” group is outnumbered and out-leveraged.

In that context, the HFC’s fight to block Ukraine aid looks more like delaying the inevitable — and a missed opportunity to get some of their wishes on border security and Israel funding passed. I think this latest development is a good signal that that interpretation might become reality. If it does — if aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan ultimately end up getting rubber-stamped — my suspicion is some Republicans in the House and Senate are going to regret not getting more for the passage of a policy move they don’t support.

As for Johnson, I think he is playing his cards as well as he can given the circumstances. Republicans' ever-thinning majority was always going to be impossible to manage, and I said from the beginning he was in over his head. But in recent days Johnson got a public endorsement from Donald Trump, offered a million different ways for Republicans to move forward on foreign aid, and is making it clear to people like Green and Massie that he is not backing down. These are all the right moves. Green and Massie look buffoonish, and fewer and fewer people are taking them seriously every day now — which is the trend Johnson wants.

Finally, as for the proposal to break the Senate’s funding bill into separate entities, let me say something too few people are saying: This is how it should be done! I understand the circumstances that brought us to this point are less than ideal, and the bills are only being voted on this way because of the entrenched divisions in Congress, but maybe that’s an opportunity for a reset. Why aren’t the individual issues within a topic as broad as foreign aid regularly treated by individual bills? Why isn’t this option A?

If you ask me if I want to send a few billion dollars to Ukraine, my answer has very little to do with whether I want to send a few billion dollars to Israel. I think that’s true for most people. Grouping these kinds of things together is one way Congress helps get bills passed, but it’s also how we keep spending incredible amounts of money in gigantic legislative packages (you just stuff enough things in there that individuals want for the “no” votes to eventually disappear). 

One more time, for the people in the back: Members of Congress should be voting on aid for Ukraine separately, in a standalone fashion. That shouldn’t be the emergency protocol (like it is now), but the standard.

I think Johnson is attempting to lead a genuinely chaotic caucus with a handful of legislators who have no interest in actually legislating. I do not envy his position, and I think he’s doing as well as anyone could. In the end, I expect to see some large funding package shipped to all three countries — the only question to me is when. 

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Your questions, answered.

Q: Can you help me understand the US’ role in supporting (financially and otherwise) Israel? How much financial aid has gone to Israel and how does it get approved? I am aware that the US has vetoed ceasefire resolutions from the UN. How impactful have these vetoes been and how exactly would the UN have enforced a ceasefire? 

— Alex from Mill Valley, CA

Tangle: Let’s take the two parts of your question separately. 

First, U.S. aid to Israel dwarfs what it provides to other countries. The U.S. has provided close to $300 billion (adjusted for inflation) in economic and military aid to Israel since its founding in 1948, by far the most of any recipient. 

In 2016, President Obama announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Israel to provide $38 billion in military assistance between fiscal year 2019 and 2028 ($3.8 billion per year). That funding is separate from the $14.3 billion that President Biden requested to send to Israel in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack, which remains in flux in Congress (though the Pentagon has found ways around them). Most of this military aid takes the form of weapons grants — money the U.S. gives to Israel to buy U.S. military equipment and services (U.S. military aid to Ukraine works in a similar way). 

That brings us to the question of how this money gets approved. The vast majority of military aid to Israel is provided under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program, which “enables eligible partner nations to purchase U.S. defense articles, services, and training… through the foreign military financing of direct commercial contracts.” The FMF was established in the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 under a provision that “authorizes the President to finance procurement of defense articles and services for foreign countries and international organizations.” The Secretary of State determines which countries will have FMF programs, the Secretary of Defense is responsible for the execution of those programs, and funds are offered as both loans and grants. 

Many people call this military aid “unconditional,” but it’s technically not. The Leahy Law prohibits the U.S. government from “using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights,” and critics of Israel have argued that the law should prevent further military aid and weapons from going to Israel due to alleged human rights abuses by its military. In 2020, the State Department established a special forum to identify if Israeli units have committed violations of human rights, which would provide the basis for denying further aid. To date it hasn’t found evidence of any violations, which some foreign policy experts have said suggests that it never will

Now, for your question on the UN ceasefire resolution. On March 26, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution, passing it without U.S. support (through abstention). So in that sense, the U.S. vetoes are no longer impactful.

Whether or not the resolution is enforceable is up for debate — the U.S. says it isn’t; China says it is. In the short term, the resolution is unlikely to change anything about the day-to-day reality of the war. The UN can impose sanctions on Israel and authorize the use of military force through its peacekeeping personnel, but doing so would require the adoption of a resolution with at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the five permanent members of the Council, which there is little momentum for.

After months of mounting international scrutiny over its actions in Gaza, the ceasefire resolution is undoubtedly a blow to Israel. That the U.S. chose to abstain from the vote rather than veto it is a sign that its once-unequivocal support of Israel on the world stage is showing some cracks.

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Under the radar.

The loss of power that preceded the cargo ship Dali crashing into the Key Bridge in Baltimore last month was far from a rare occurrence — hundreds of similar ships have experienced these loss-of-propulsion events in recent years. In Baltimore alone, ships lost propulsion nearly two dozen times in the three years before the Dali’s crash, including a 2021 incident when a cargo ship lost power just after passing under the Key Bridge. Investigators have identified a range of causes for these failures — including poor maintenance, faulty equipment, and human error — with many of these instances occurring near a port, bridge, or other infrastructure. Now authorities are warning that more U.S. ports could be vulnerable if ships don’t adopt better measures to respond to a loss of power. The Washington Post has the story.


  • $72 billion. The approximate amount of humanitarian, financial, and military support the U.S. has provided to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. 
  • 53%. The percentage of Americans who say the U.S. should send military weapons and aid to Ukraine, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll released this week.
  • 39%. The percentage of Republicans who say the U.S. should send military weapons and aid to Ukraine.
  • $250 million. The value of two military aid transfers from the U.S. to Israel after the Oct. 7 attack, the only two transactions that have met the congressional review threshold and been made public to date.
  • 33%. The percentage of Americans who say they support the U.S. stopping all aid to Israel, according to a POLITICO-Morning Consult poll released this week.
  • 27%. The percentage of Republicans who say they support the U.S. stopping all aid to Israel.
  • 65%. The percentage of Americans who say the security relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan strengthens U.S. national security, according to the 2023 Chicago Council Survey.

The extras.

Yesterday’s survey: 1,089 readers answered our survey on Trump’s hush-money case with 68% saying he acted illegally and unethically. “Illegal, unethical, and yet probably not worth prosecuting,” one respondent said.

What do you think of Speaker Mike Johnson’s tactics on foreign aid? Let us know!

Have a nice day.

Mitchell Robinson is a professional basketball player for the New York Knicks, but he has a special appreciation for one of the men who helped get him there. His high school basketball coach, Butch Stockton, lost his wife and Robinson, who had visited her regularly, knew how tough the loss was. At her funeral he invited Stockton to come stay with him. "He said, ‘Coach there's no reason for you to stay down here in Louisiana’," Stockton recalled. "‘You come to New York with me and enjoy yourself and get your mind back straight, because you know how much you loved your wife.’" They have been roommates since the start of the season. Sunny Skyz has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.