May 23, 2024

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Democrats make a surprise move to support Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson

Democrats make a surprise move to support Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson
  • Written by Anthony Zurcher
  • BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Top Democrats in Congress announced Tuesday that their party will give Mike Johnson a lifeline if Republicans try to remove him as Speaker of the House.

A handful of them have hinted that they would support Johnson because he opposed his party's conservatives in passing $61 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

“It is time to turn the page on this chapter of pro-Putin Republican obstruction,” the House Democratic leadership team said in a statement, implying that Republicans who opposed support for Ukraine were aiding Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Johnson, a devout evangelical conservative from Louisiana with strong right-wing views on social issues such as abortion, now leads a coalition government in the House of Representatives.

That could be a bitter pill to swallow for Democrats who vehemently disagree with him on policy and who believe their party could benefit from extended Republican unrest. However, cooperation with the Speaker of Parliament goes beyond providing assistance to Ukraine.

Suitable alliance

Earlier this year, Johnson relied on Democratic votes to approve new operating funding for the US government, preventing partial shutdowns of services and keeping several Democratic spending priorities intact.

Three weeks ago, members of his party refused to reauthorize a controversial national security surveillance program.

Some conservatives were pushing for his removal even before Ukraine reached parliament.

“I am a big believer in recorded votes because Congressional recording allows every American to see the truth and provides transparency to our votes,” she said on social media.

“Americans deserve to see partisanship on full display,” she added, using a term popularized by those who claim there is no real difference between Democrats and Republicans.

However, rank-and-file House Republicans appear uneasy about the prospect of a new fight, just six months after former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from office.

It took three weeks of intra-party wrangling and ruthlessness before Johnson, a relative unknown, won office with unanimous Republican support.

Donald Trump has been a key, and somewhat unlikely, ally of Johnson throughout this latest challenge to his leadership.

The former president and presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee praised the embattled speaker, saying in a radio interview last week that he was a “good person” and “trying hard.”

He noted that Johnson had to work with a very narrow Republican majority in the House.

Democratic support for Johnson, coupled with Trump's continued support, will likely ensure his hold on power at least until November elections for all 435 House seats.

If Republicans retain control of the chamber — which is by no means guaranteed — Johnson will not be able to count on Democratic support, opening up the possibility of another moment of reckoning among conservatives.

But for now, Johnson said he's focused on doing his job.

“What the country needs now is an effective Congress.”