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Rosendale + Johnson

Johnson meddles in Montana, bucking McConnell and the NRSC

Breaking news: Speaker Mike Johnson plans to endorse Rep. Matt Rosendale’s (R-Mont.) looming campaign for Senate, according to multiple sources close to the situation.

Rosendale is expected to jump into the race on Friday.

Johnson’s endorsement would put him in direct conflict with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund, all of whom are opposed to Rosendale’s candidacy. The Senate GOP political operation has backed Tim Sheehy to take on Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in one of the marquee races this year.

Rosendale turned heads in the House Republican Conference earlier this week when he voted to send $17.6 billion to Israel without corresponding budget offsets. Previously, Rosendale has said this type of aid package needs to be paid for.

The charitable view is that Johnson is backing one of his own rank-and-file lawmakers for “member management” purposes. Needless to say, though, Senate Republicans aren’t very happy with Johnson here on Day 106 of his speakership — for this and many other reasons.

Johnson’s team did not reply to a request for comment.

The Senate’s morass: It’s difficult to out-chaos the House Republican Conference. But Senate Republicans are getting pretty damn close.

Senate Republicans are rudderless. Their conference meetings regularly descend into angry conflict. And they’re staring down a politically treacherous few days in which they’ll struggle to — maybe — pass a $95 billion foreign aid package with a minority of Republicans supporting it. All while hardline GOP conservatives vow to fight it every step of the way.

And if you feel like you’re in an endless “border security-Ukraine funding” time loop, you’re not alone.

Just minutes after rejecting the bipartisan border security supplemental on Wednesday, Senate Republicans were demanding amendment votes dealing with the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border before they would provide the votes to advance the foreign aid package.

As of Wednesday night, the path forward remained unclear. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recessed the chamber to “give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out.” Ouch.

A pivotal procedural vote looms later today. The Senate is still short of the 60 votes necessary to advance the foreign aid package, and even many Republicans who support the underlying bill are holding out until they get amendment commitments from Schumer.

It’s also been an especially brutal stretch for McConnell, who has been forced to defend his record-setting stint as the Senate GOP leader.

“This has been an extremely unpredictable turn of events,” lamented Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who hasn’t missed a Senate vote in 27 years. Collins was one of just four Republicans who voted to advance the bipartisan border security supplemental and one of just eight who were ready to move ahead with the standalone foreign aid package.

What now? Senate Republicans will meet behind closed doors at 9:30 a.m. to chart a path forward — if there is one. These days, their private meetings devolve into ritualistic snipe-fests between the dwindling number of traditional Republicans and those aligned more closely with former President Donald Trump, who don’t want to do anything on the border or Ukraine. The session on Wednesday was no different, according to several attendees.

We scooped that Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the NRSC chair, was urging senators to block the foreign aid package because it would kneecap Senate GOP candidates who have insisted on a strong border component. Daines was once a vocal supporter of Ukraine aid and was one of the first lawmakers to travel there after Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

At another point, Senate Minority Whip John Thune said Republicans “need to stop being p*ssies and just vote,” noting that the issue isn’t going to go away. And Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) got into a heated argument.

The end result of this debacle may very well be that Democrats get everything they originally wanted — a foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without border restrictions. In order for that to happen, GOP leaders will likely be forced to go through multiple days of cloture votes, contentious amendments and complaints from hardliners.

“Oh, I think Republican leadership has shown they’re a well-oiled machine. They just do great. Couldn’t be improved upon. Absolutely have it all together. Very impressive,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said, dripping with sarcasm. “No, it’s a total embarrassment.”

With each procedural vote that’ll be required before final passage of the foreign aid package, GOP opponents will retain some leverage. McConnell and his allies are determined to finally get this ugly, months-long Ukraine funding chapter behind them.

Of course, the Senate might once again be hampered by Johnson’s indecision. Johnson declined to say Wednesday whether he’d put an Israel-Ukraine-Taiwan bill on the House floor. But the speaker did signal that he wants the issues broken up. Here’s Johnson:

— Andrew Desiderio, Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

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