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Mike Johnson

Schumer moves on foreign aid as House GOP fumbles

News: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to force a vote on a clean foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific after Republicans block floor debate on the bipartisan border supplemental package this afternoon.

On the House GOP: We’ve seen fits and starts, crashes and burns and our fair share of missteps by House GOP leaders through the years.

But what we’re now witnessing with Speaker Mike Johnson’s House defies definition.

Tuesday’s debacle — failing to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and then choosing to lose a vote on $17 billion in aid to Israel — is truly one of the most embarrassing days in recent House GOP history.

Regardless of what one thinks of the merits of either effort, losing back-to-back votes shows a House Republican legislative process that isn’t optimized for winning. GOP leaders can reverse both defeats, but the damage to their reputation is immense.

Inside Johnson’s leadership circle, there are plenty who doubt his decision-making capability while being forced to begrudgingly execute his questionable strategies. And among rank-and-file House GOP lawmakers, there are a lot of people scratching their heads about where he’s leading them.

Let’s start with the Mayorkas impeachment: The GOP leadership knew it had three no’s going into Tuesday night’s highly-awaited showdown over Mayorkas. They weren’t sure how many Democrats would be there. But given the gravity of removing a Cabinet secretary from office, why roll the dice?

In the end, one widely expected Democratic no-show — Rep. Al Green of Texas, who briefly left the hospital after emergency surgery — made it to the vote, resulting in a 215-215 tie. That meant the impeachment resolution would fail. Johnson had spent several frantic minutes huddled on the floor with members and aides before the vote, a sign of the trouble ahead.

With the tally deadlocked, Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah) switched his vote to no, which will allow him to offer a motion to reconsider. The House then rejected the Mayokas impeachment resolution by a 214-216 final tally.

Now this isn’t over yet. Republicans can still impeach Mayorkas. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise — who is undergoing cancer treatment — is expected to come back as soon as next week. At that point, unless someone else changes their position, a re-vote will happen and Mayorkas will be impeached. But the episode Tuesday left an indelible image of GOP floor incompetence, something that’s happened with stunning regularity this Congress.

Now, that other vote: The decision to hold the Israel aid vote right after that is truly befuddling. Because of the conservative bent of the House Rules Committee, Republican leaders are forced to consider nearly everything under suspension of the rules, meaning a two-thirds majority for passage.

After the House Democratic leadership and the White House made clear they were opposed to the bill, Johnson’s leadership team went forward with the vote despite knowing it would fail. Republicans spun the narrative that Democrats defeated it — and they did, a decision that some Democrats called into question.

But pro-Israel groups privately questioned the wisdom of creating the optics of the House divided over helping Israel during what the GOP describes as an existential war. All of this while the Israeli Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana is on the Hill this week.

As we said, none of this is permanent. The Republican leadership will schedule another Mayorkas vote. Senior Republicans signaled they may try to put the Israel aid bill through the Rules Committee next week, a huge challenge that will spark a fight of its own.

But the Republicans’ tight margins and internal policy splits create an absolutely ungovernable climate.

Here’s Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), summing up the feelings of the middle of the conference:

Remember, in less than a month, Congress is going to need to pass FY2024 spending bills. The FAA needs to be reauthorized and FISA is going to come up for a vote. As we mentioned above, Schumer is about to move a standalone bill to send billions of dollars to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. Johnson has some big decisions to make very soon.

— Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan and Mica Soellner

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