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Will Ukraine Aid Sink or Save Speaker Mike Johnson?
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Will Ukraine Aid Sink or Save Speaker Mike Johnson?

The Republican’s position hangs in the balance.

Happy Monday! Congratulations to the South Carolina Gamecocks on winning the NCAA women’s basketball national championship over the Iowa Hawkeyes—which had us thinking about Iowa and South Carolina for the first time since the GOP primary season ended.

Up to Speed

  • Former President Donald Trump brought in more than $50 million at a fundraiser Saturday in Palm Beach, his campaign announced. “It’s clearer than ever that we have the message, the operation, and the money to propel President Trump to victory on November 5,” Trump campaign senior advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles said in a Republican National Committee statement. The fundraising total could help the GOP close the gap with President Joe Biden, who has no shortage of campaign funds, and it comes after Trump and the RNC raised more than $65 million in the month of March, finishing the month with about $93 million in the bank.
  • At the same time, Biden’s campaign announced Saturday that it brought in $90 million in March. Some of that total comes from a single, star-studded New York City fundraiser that brought in about $25 million and included appearances from former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Biden’s total cash on hand is now $192 million, the most of any Democratic presidential nominee at this point in the election cycle, the campaign said.
  • Biden can use that money to ramp up his efforts in Georgia, where his campaign is opening seven offices and hiring nine new positions in a joint effort with the Democratic National Committee. “The power of organizing and early investments turned Georgia blue in 2020, leading to four years of progress under President Biden, Vice President Harris, and a Democratic Senate,” Dan Kanninen, the campaign’s battleground states director, said in a statement to reporters. Jonae Wartel, who headed Democrats’ successful efforts in Georgia’s 2021 Senate runoffs, is leading Biden’s Georgia campaign. 
  • Meanwhile, Democrats are also turning their money toward congressional races. House Majority PAC, which is affiliated with Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, is spending $186 million in TV and digital advertisements to take out Republicans representing districts Biden won in 2020 and help vulnerable Democrats. The advertising investment is the largest the group has ever made, and it spans 60 media markets across America.
  • In a video he posted on Truth Social, Trump on Monday affirmed his support for the availability of in vitro fertilization and said action on abortion should be left to the states—notably falling short of endorsing a federal limit. “My view is, now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land—in this case, the law of the state,” he said. Trump also encouraged voters to “follow your heart on this issue” but also exhorted them to remember they need to “win elections to restore our culture and, in fact, to save our country.” The former president’s comments are his most direct on the issue since he signaled in March that he would consider supporting a restriction at 15 weeks into pregnancy.
  • “I still don’t have any burning desire to be a senator. I wasn’t looking for a title. I don’t need a job. But I’m just so frustrated with how broken our political system is,” former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican running for his state’s Senate seat, told CNN’s Inside Politics in an interview that aired Sunday. Despite this professed reluctance, his electoral prospects look good for the moment. Two polls since late March showed Hogan narrowly beating both of his two most likely Democratic opponents, Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Trone last week refused to commit to a debate with Alsobrooks, resulting in the event’s cancellation.

Speaker Mike Johnson Will Pursue Ukraine Aid With His Job in Trouble

House Speaker Mike Johnson exits the West Wing on his way to speak to reporters after a meeting with President Joe Biden and congressional leadership at the White House on February 27, 2024. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
House Speaker Mike Johnson exits the West Wing on his way to speak to reporters after a meeting with President Joe Biden and congressional leadership at the White House on February 27, 2024. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

For weeks, House Speaker Mike Johnson has signaled he will pursue supplemental funding for Ukraine aid after Congress returns to Washington this week. On Friday, The Dispatch has learned, the Republican speaker’s staffers informed their counterparts within leadership to expect a proposal sometime in the pre-Memorial Day working period starting when the House comes back into session on Tuesday. 

But moving forward on Ukraine funding contains a number of political risks for Johnson, including the one that’s been hanging over his head since just before lawmakers began their two-week recess last month: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s motion to eject him from his post.

On March 22 Greene, the far-right Georgia Republican, filed a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair—the same procedure that ousted Kevin McCarthy last fall. She did not force a vote on her motion before the House gaveled out of session but characterized her resolution as a “warning” to Johnson that his days as speaker were numbered. 

Greene’s objections to Johnson’s support for a $1.2 trillion spending package, which he passed right before the recess with Democratic support, had less to do with the fiscal concerns voiced by other Republicans and more to do with the lack of additional funding for border enforcement. But she has also indicated more Ukraine aid is also a nonstarter.

“For Mike Johnson to actually think that his Republican conference supports sending $60 billion to Ukraine, he is a damn fool, Steve,” Greene said last week on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast. She touted her motion to vacate and said other House Republicans support it, though none have yet spoken out in favor.

Nonetheless, the speaker is preparing for the possibility that Johnson’s pursuit of a deal could trigger Greene to call for a vote on her motion.

“I respect Marjorie. She will always have an open door to the Speaker’s office. We do have honest differences on strategy sometimes, but share the same conservative beliefs,” said Johnson in a statement provided to The Dispatch. “In spite of our Republican majority of just a single seat in just one chamber of Congress, we are still fighting this administration every day to make policy changes. A shutdown would not have served our party or assist us in our mission of saving the republic by growing our majority, nor will another motion to vacate.”

Preventing other Republicans from signing on to Greene’s motion will require Johnson to push hard to include GOP priorities in a negotiated Ukraine aid supplemental, which several House Republicans remain skeptical about supporting. In recent weeks, Johnson has publicly expressed support for rendering some of the aid as a loan to Ukraine and attaching a requirement that the Biden administration seize and sell off Russian assets to pay for it. The speaker is also pushing for a reversal of the administration’s pause on liquified natural gas exports as a condition of new aid, something the White House has dismissed out of hand.

“He is trying to see what he can couple to Ukraine to make it somewhat more palatable,” said one GOP operative in Washington.

Johnson has shown no eagerness to bring up the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan that the Senate passed in February. (He said there was “no rush” to do so a day after it passed in the upper house.) A failure to pass his own Ukraine funding plan might leave him with no option but to eventually bring up the Senate bill if, as Republicans on Capitol Hill claim, the speaker truly believes in funding Ukraine. By that point, if Greene hasn’t already pushed for a vote on her motion, bringing up the Senate bill might be the trigger.

If Johnson’s quest for a Ukraine deal hastens a vote on Greene’s motion, it could also be what saves his speakership, at least this time. In October 2023, 208 Democrats joined just eight Republicans to remove McCarthy after Republican Matt Gaetz’s own motion to vacate. But it’s possible that enough House Democrats who want to fund Ukraine aid would reward Johnson’s good-faith effort and recognize that, until a more stable majority is elected, upheaval in the speaker’s office doesn’t serve the country’s best interest. If this happens, don’t expect Democrats to actually vote for Johnson—it’s more likely a critical mass of them would simply not vote on the motion.

“Some people feel Johnson has to fail on this to then bring up the Senate bill,” said one knowledgeable Republican operative. “He won’t have Democrats supporting him unless he puts the Senate bill on the floor. If he goes with his plan, Dems won’t back him, but will if he does Senate bill.”

Notable and Quotable

“If this Partisan Hack wants to put me in the ‘clink’ for speaking the open and obvious TRUTH, I will gladly become a Modern Day Nelson Mandela—It will be my GREAT HONOR.”

—Former President Donald Trump in a Truth Social post, commenting on a gag order from Judge Juan Merchan

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.