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US Speaker of the House of Representatives Johnson risks the wrath of his fellow Republicans over the vote in Ukraine

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson A $95 billion aid bill for Kiev, Israel and other allies appears set to be pushed through this weekend, despite a storm of protest from hardline Republicans that could lead to an attempt to oust him.

The relief legislation is the latest in a series of bipartisan measures Johnson has had to push through Congress, including two massive spending bills and a controversial reauthorization of federal surveillance programs.

His actions, six months after the 52-year-old Louisiana Republican won the gavel, have won him accolades from centrist Republicans who worry that party infighting could erode the U.S.’s standing on the world stage.

Johnson was elected chairman after a small group of hardline Republicans ousted his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, a move that brought the House of Representatives to a standstill for weeks.

“He has shown tremendous courage,” Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick told Reuters. “He doesn’t let the sound get to him.”

The House of Representatives is expected to vote as early as Saturday on relief legislation that would provide $61 billion to address the conflict in Ukraine, including $23 billion to replenish U.S. weapons, supplies and facilities; $26 billion for Israel, including $9.1 billion for humanitarian needs, and $8.12 billion for the Indo-Pacific.

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Republicans hold a narrow majority in the House of 218-213, a margin as small as that of the Republican representative Mike Gallagher postpones his mid-session retirement, originally scheduled for Friday, so he can be present to vote for the bill.

Johnson has routinely relied on Democratic votes to pass legislation since becoming chairman, and he is expected to do so again on Saturday.

Republican Rep. Max Miller, an early critic of Johnson’s speakership, now credits him with quickly adopting the national perspective needed for the top Republican in Congress.

“He has now seen the light when it comes to representing not only your district in Louisiana, but the entire country,” the Ohio Republican said.

“He got a crash course in what the majority of Americans really feel.”

“COURAGEOUS,” SAYS PELOSI

Johnson’s performance has even led to positive reviews from some senior Democrats.

Former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who led her party in the House for two decades — described him as “courageous” for defying tough opposition to pass legislation that could avert two government shutdowns, the effort of the US to fight terrorism and would now support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

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The speaker received crucial support last week from former President Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, who said it was “unfortunate” that members would seek Johnson’s impeachment “because we have much bigger problems right now.”

Many Republicans in the House of Representatives fear that impeachment would mean unnecessary chaos months before the Nov. 5 elections that will determine control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.

But despite Trump’s support, Johnson faces a growing threat of ouster from hardline Republicans, including members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, who oppose aid to Ukraine, support border restrictions and deep cuts and undermine the federal government’s surveillance powers want to curb to protect American citizens. .

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, which introduced a motion to vacate Johnson’s seat as speaker, got a co-sponsor this week in the form of fellow hardliner Rep. Thomas Massie. And more hardliners appear ready to join in.

Even if Greene doesn’t try to oust Johnson anytime soon, she predicted he wouldn’t be able to maintain his leadership role in the long term.

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“The reality for Mike Johnson is that he will not be a speaker. But it’s just a matter of when that’s going to happen,” Greene said Wednesday.

Hardline frustrations mounted Thursday after reports emerged that Republican leaders in the House of Representatives were considering a plan to raise the threshold for filing an impeachment motion from one lawmaker to a party majority. Johnson later vowed not to make such a move.

For their part, some Democrats have indicated they might consider throwing votes to defend Johnson’s leadership if he succeeds in securing aid to Ukraine.

“I certainly don’t want to do anything personally that could in any way support Marjorie Taylor Greene’s destructive path,” said Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle.

Johnson himself has rejected the threat of impeachment, saying he could never do his job if he operated out of fear for his own political future.

“History judges us by what we do,” Johnson told reporters this week. “I’m doing what I believe is the right thing here. I think providing lethal assistance to Ukraine is critical at this time. I really am.”

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)

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