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Mike Johnson with Marjorie Taylor Greene

Johnson’s FISA adventure nears an end. But there’s more fun ahead

It took him months, but Speaker Mike Johnson is poised to get a win today on a critical national security surveillance bill. The House looks set to reauthorize FISA for two years despite strong opposition, especially on the right.

It was a difficult journey to get here. This is Johnson’s fourth attempt to push through a FISA bill. In fact, the whole episode is a perfect illustration of what Johnson must go through to get anything done — and what happens if he doesn’t.

To get to this vote, the House Republican leadership had to get buy-in from former President Donald Trump, as well as hardline conservatives. GOP leaders alerted Trump on Thursday that they were abandoning a five-year FISA reauthorization for the two-year bill. This new deadline would, in theory, give Trump the ability to rewrite FISA if he’s elected president in November. That appears to have satisfied Trump and his allies in the House Freedom Caucus.

At 4:30 p.m. today, Johnson is scheduled to appear with Trump at Mar-a-Lago to introduce a bill that would make it illegal for non-citizens to vote in federal elections.

Of course, it’s long been illegal for non-citizens to vote in federal elections, and there’s virtually no evidence it happens, despite Trump’s claims otherwise. And a Trump-Johnson proposal like this will never pass the Senate.

Johnson, however, needs Trump’s backing both on the campaign trail and inside the House GOP conference. Which is why today’s event is important for the speaker.

We want to run through a few other challenging dynamics for House Republicans you should be aware of.

1) Ukraine. Initially, senior GOP leadership sources believed that Johnson would release a Ukraine aid bill next week. Johnson says there are lots of conversations taking place, although senior GOP committee and leadership aides say they’ve been stunned by the lack of progress internally.

We asked a senior House GOP aide involved in these matters whether they’d seen any text for a Ukraine bill. “The Senate bill,” the aide responded, meaning the $95 billion Senate foreign aid package. The White House and Hill Democrats believe Johnson will eventually relent and put that bill on the floor.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise insists conversations are ongoing over Ukraine — and the Senate bill is out of the question.

The longer Johnson waits on Ukraine, the more difficult it gets. It’s already clear that Johnson could lose his post over this issue. And Johnson will have an audience today with one of the loudest Ukraine skeptics in Trump.

2) No one is afraid of Johnson. Unlike Nancy Pelosi, Newt Gingrich or even John Boehner, no one is afraid to cross Johnson. Senior appropriators voted against the recent government funding bill with impunity. Committee chairs took a pass too. No fallout.

But it’s on the Rules Committee — the panel that the speaker uses to control the floor — where you see some unprecedented actions.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a Rules Committee member who managed the FISA rule debate on the floor Wednesday, turned around and voted against that rule. Roy didn’t even give Johnson or outgoing Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) a heads-up that he was doing it.

Roy insists it was no big deal, although many veteran members in both parties were stunned. A lawmaker who did this would immediately be booted from Rules by previous speakers, no questions asked.

“Where is that sacrosanct? Is that written in the Bible?” Roy shot back when asked about the incident. “As we said last January [2023], we’re trying to democratize this place a little bit.”

The reality, though, is that the House is a dictatorship of the majority. Especially on the Rules Committee.

3) It’s April, and Republicans are on messaging bills. Next week, the House Republican leadership has lined up a series of bills dealing with alleged Biden administration overreach on household appliances.

Listed for possible consideration on the floor:

Rep. Debbie Lesko’s (R-Ariz.) Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act, which prohibits the federal government from putting new energy conservation standards on household appliances.

Rep. Andy Ogles’ (R-Tenn.) Liberty in Laundry Act, which “prohibits” the government from “prescribing or enforcing energy conservation standards for clothes washers that are not cost-effective or technologically feasible.”

Rep. Mike Ezell’s (R-Miss.) Clothes Dryer Reliability Act, same but for clothes dryers.

Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks’ (R-Iowa) Refrigerator Freedom Act, is the same but for refrigerators.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s (R-Texas) Affordable Air Conditioning Act, ditto, but for air conditioning units.

And Rep. Nick Langworthy’s (R-N.Y.) Stop Unaffordable Dishwasher Standards Act, which takes care of the GOP’s claims of the overregulation of dishwashers.

These are all part of the Republican culture war clash over energy efficiency and climate change. It’s similar to the gas stove hysteria or Trump’s war on low-flush toilets and light bulbs.

— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

Presented by AARP

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We’ve made it our business to know what matters to people 50 and over—like we know that protecting Social Security and supporting family caregivers are among their top priorities. Learn more from our polling in Pennsylvania.

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