IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

On security aid, Democrats comes to Speaker Mike Johnson’s rescue

There is a normal way in which the U.S. House functions. A security aid package is advancing, however, thanks to an anything-but-normal process.


There is a normal way in which the U.S. House of Representatives functions. Looking at how the institution has tackled its responsibilities this week, however, “normal” isn’t a word that comes to mind. NBC News reported:

The House voted 316-94 to tee up votes on four separate bills that include aid to Ukraine and Israel, a good sign for the prospects of Congress approving U.S. funding for the two countries after months of delay and partisan fighting. Speaker Mike Johnson, facing intense opposition from right-wing members, received crucial help from Democrats to move forward with the votes.

The first big step in this dramatic tale came last night when the security aid package was sent to the Rules Committee — sometimes called the “speaker’s committee” because the House speaker handpicks its members, who in turn advance his priorities.

In this instance, however, three Republicans on the panel — Kentucky’s Thomas Massie, South Carolina’s Ralph Norman, and Texas’ Chip Roy — balked. Ordinarily, that would’ve derailed the bill, but four Democrats on the Rules Committee rescued the GOP speaker’s bill, which is extremely unusual.

That set the stage for this morning’s procedural vote. Again, when the House is operating normally, the parties stick together on these rules votes, and the majority party’s leaders can expect the support of every member of their conference, even those who’ll ultimately vote against the bill on final passage.

This morning, however, 55 House Republicans defied their party’s leadership on the procedural vote, far more than would ordinarily be necessary to kill a proposal. But these far-right members failed to derail Johnson’s bill because 165 House Democrats voted with the GOP leadership — which is roughly 165 more votes that Johnson can usually count on when the chamber is holding a procedural vote.

Up until very recently, a House majority conference hadn’t lost a vote on adopting a rule in decades — a recent New York Times report called it “all but unthinkable” — but over the last year or so, it’s become rather common thanks to GOP radicalization, and it would’ve happened again today were it not for votes from the minority party.

Given this kind of cooperation, it might be tempting to think that Johnson, who keeps relying on the minority to govern, has moved to the left, or perhaps that Democrats have moved to the right. But that’s not at all what’s happened: Rather, after months of painful delays, the beleaguered conservative House speaker has finally agreed to allow House members to vote on security aid; Democrats see this as a worthwhile and necessary goal; and the GOP’s far-right extremists have found themselves outnumbered.

So what happens now? First and foremost, the House is moving toward final votes on security aid, and we’re likely to see final passage tomorrow.

But it also appears that we’re moving toward a motion-to-vacate-the-chair vote — six months after such a vote stripped then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy of his gavel — and I’ll have more on that a little later this afternoon. Watch this space.