Keeping Up With the Johnsons
Against Mitch McConnell’s wishes, some Republican senators are trying to help House Speaker Mike Johnson play the strongest hand possible in the midst of several key negotiations.
The Senate Republican conference welcomed the new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, to the north side of the Capitol complex Wednesday.
Johnson was the conference luncheon’s special guest, in which the new speaker discusses the most pressing issues facing legislators heading into the holiday season: appropriations and avoiding a government shutdown on November 17, as well as foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine.
The Louisianan representative spoke about the impending shutdown. Because the House took three weeks to swear in a new speaker, the appropriations process continues to lag behind, and Johnson signaled that he would be willing to sign a rolling continuing resolution with timelines for specific appropriations bills to get passed, or else the relevant segment of the government would enter a shutdown. For the meantime, however, it’s full steam ahead for the House’s efforts to pass appropriations bills.
Johnson also explained his plan to provide aid to Israel through offsetting cuts to the IRS and separating out Israel and Ukraine funding. Detractors say the plan will actually increase deficits through less enforcement, but conservatives, remembering the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to target political enemies, perceive the revamped IRS as another cudgel for Democrats to use against conservatives. Furthermore, while Johnson expressed his support for Ukraine, he doubled down on separating Israel and Ukraine funding and floated moving forward with Ukraine aid down the road, though he stopped short of making any real commitments to do so.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is working with President Joe Biden and a cohort of establishment senators to push for Biden’s sought-after $106 billion aid package. On Wednesday, several Republican senators spoke out against the McConnell-Biden plan to The American Conservative. McConnell’s zeal for Ukraine aid, Senators Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Rick Scott suggested, is undermining the new speaker, just as it undermined former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in September. The McConnell-Biden aid package would tie together aid to Israel, Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific, other humanitarian relief, and border security, which Scott told TAC is just funding to assist sanctuary cities.
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Another Johnson, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, was leading the steering luncheon in Lee’s absence. “I thought it was important that we get the speaker over here and have dialogue with senators. So we reached out and he agreed to come over, and I was happy to escort him over,” Senator Johnson said, according to Roll Call.
Sen. Johnson seems to agree with Lee, Paul, and Scott, telling TAC via email that “we’ve got to realize that the speaker of [the] Republican-controlled House is the leader of the party.”
Yesterday, the Johnsons met, along with Scott, Rep. Jim Jordan, and other power players in each chamber to discuss how Republicans can play their strongest hand in these crucial upcoming weeks. The path forward is simple, Sen. Johnson wrote: “[Speaker Johnson is] making some calls and we in the minority of the Senate ought to follow his lead and not to undermine him.”