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Mike Johnson

Leader Look: Johnson and Jeffries

The House and Senate are out of session again this week. President Joe Biden is in Washington all week.

Today we’re going to do a Leader Look. We’ll focus on Speaker Mike Johnson and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. We’ll follow up tomorrow with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Mike Johnson: Congratulations to Speaker Johnson on your five-month anniversary. Now we’ll see if you can make it to six.

Johnson is spending the week in California fundraising for House Republicans. Yes, the same super-blue California that Republicans dump all over for being a liberal hellscape. Their money is still green!

As you recall, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed a motion to vacate the chair before the House left town on March 22. Hardline conservatives were furious over the passage of the $1.2 trillion minibus spending package, the final details of which were negotiated in secret between Johnson’s office and top White House officials. MTG called her motion “a warning and a pink slip” for the speaker. Johnson said Sunday on Fox News that he and MTG “exchanged text messages even today. We’re going to talk early next week.”

Johnson must take this threat very seriously after what happened to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, although there’s nowhere near the personal enmity for the Louisiana Republican as there was with his predecessor.

Johnson — who’ll be down to a one-vote margin soon — has been eager to move on from high-stakes legislating. But consider what Johnson has in the offing over the critical April-May period:

1) Ukraine. Johnson has said he wants to pass Ukraine funding, but he hasn’t said how. This is a dangerous issue for Johnson. The speaker could end up facing a MTV if he moves without solidifying support on his right. Johnson said on Fox News that he will move a bill when the House returns from its recess.

Internally, Johnson’s staff recognize they have no real good options here. The House could take up the $95 billion Senate bill, something very close to the Senate bill with some “innovations,” or a bipartisan discharge petition. Johnson will have to rely on House Democrats if he moves forward on this issue. Which is why he has little leverage to add other policies in. The key for Johnson is finding the least painful option — meaning the one that lets him keep his job.

2) Biden impeachment inquiry. The House Republican pursuit of Biden is fizzling to a close. There aren’t the votes there to impeach the president, and everyone knows it.

Yet Johnson will have to tread carefully here again so he doesn’t alienate former President Donald Trump and his allies. Facing an unprecedented criminal trial in two weeks, Trump wants Biden impeached, and his supporters want a floor vote. But if that vote fails, Biden would be strengthened politically.

3) FISA needs renewal by April 19. Johnson is relying on negotiations between House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan and House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner — both of Ohio — to yield an agreement. Yet getting them to cut a deal isn’t going to be easy at all. There is a real ideological split here that cuts across party lines.

4) Francis Scott Key Bridge/disaster supplemental. The Biden administration is going to ask for upwards of $1 billion to respond to the FSK emergency and other priorities. In the mix is money for other disasters and expiring programs, including the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Hakeem Jeffries: We’ll put it bluntly — Jeffries is as powerful a House minority leader as could be. With Johnson on his way to a one-vote margin, the New York Democrat holds a lot of cards, if he’s able to play them. Jeffries has a ton of leverage on every bill considering the dysfunctional Republican Conference.

The House Democratic leader will be in Florida this week for an abortion-related event and to raise money, according to aides.

Jeffries, though, faces doubts about whether he can lead his caucus back into the majority. There’s growing chatter that with a weakened Biden at the top of the ticket and only a small number of House seats in play, Democrats face a potential nightmare scenario — Trump back in the White House, a GOP-run Senate and House. It could happen, don’t underestimate it.

But consider this: Jeffries’ DCCC is shellacking Johnson and the NRCC. The NRCC has $45 million on hand and raised $8.1 million last month. The DCCC has $59 million and raised $14 million last month. Johnson can take solace in the fact that CLF, the House Republican super PAC, has $51 million in the bank. HMP, the Democratic counterpart, has $43 million.

Presented by The Coalition to Project American Jobs

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.