Dems signal they're open to helping Johnson on foreign aid as conservatives revolt

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House Democrats are still digesting Speaker Mike Johnson's four-part foreign aid plan, but are signaling they're open to helping him move it.

“Let's make sure everybody gets a chance to see it, socialize the substance of it,” said Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), chair of the centrist New Democrat Coalition. "It may not look the same, but the pieces of it are the same as the Senate supplemental. So it's not new to us, in that sense.”

Without Democratic help, the separate aid bills for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan — which together closely mirror a bipartisan, Senate-passed foreign aid bill — have no chance at even coming up for a vote. Johnson has said he'll move the package through the regular process, meaning it has to leap over two major hurdles before passage: the Rules Committee and a procedural vote on the floor.

If all three conservatives on the Rules panel unite with Democrats to oppose it, the bills won't make it to the floor. And even if the bundle of bills does get through that committee, enough Republicans have already signaled they'll tank the so-called rule vote on the floor, which would block all four bills.

That's where Democrats come in. Typically, the majority party is solely responsible for passing rules, both in committee and on the floor. Democrats are bristling that they're being called upon to help Republicans, but they're desperate to unstick Ukraine cash, after Johnson has refused to move on a bipartisan Senate-passed foreign aid bill for months.

“Our preference is making sure that we get the Senate bill over the line. But we will work with them, as we have been, to get the elements of the Senate bill if the Senate can pass it,” House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) told reporters Wednesday, prior to Johnson releasing bill text.

"We will make a decision about a rule vote, but we are not going to let that get in the way of this moment where we have to act," she added.

Asked after the release of bill text about helping Johnson, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a brief interview he'd talk to his members first: “We haven't met as a caucus yet to discuss.”

But one top Democrat has already signaled she supports the package. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, came out in support of the three bills sending aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan: "After House Republicans dragged their feet for months, we finally have a path forward to provide support for our allies and desperately needed humanitarian aid."

Conservative resistance to the package quickly solidified as Johnson released text of the three primary foreign aid bills Wednesday afternoon. House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good called on "every true conservative" to block the package. Heritage Action, the political arm of the influential conservative Heritage Foundation, is expected to notify Hill offices of their opposition to the procedural vote on the foreign aid bills, encouraging a rare "Key Vote 'No'" to lawmakers.

Johnson has promised another vote, packaged separately from the others, on a border bill in an effort to appease conservatives, a tactic that largely failed. And he's moving carefully with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) threatening to force a vote to oust him, which Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) endorsed after Johnson detailed his foreign aid plan earlier this week.

Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Massie met with Johnson on Wednesday to push him to add border into the foreign aid package, instead of as a separate bill. The three conservatives each sit on the Rules Committee, and if they join with Democrats in the committee to oppose it, they can block the foreign aid package. Roy said on X that he would vote against the rule, while Massie declined to say after the meeting if he would support the rule, which sets up the parameters of the House debate.

Norman indicated after the meeting that without changes to Johnson's plan he would also vote against the rule: "I can't support that unless something else changes."

Johnson is certain to need Democratic help on the floor, where he can only afford to lose two Republicans at full attendance and still clear votes on partisan lines.

There is one escape hatch, which Democrats would prefer to take if they can get the requisite GOP support. The minority party has been sitting for the last month on a so-called discharge petition, a longshot procedural tactic that would force a vote on the House floor if a majority of members back it. One on the Senate-passed foreign aid bill currently has 195 signatures, but only one Republican has signed on so far: former Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.).

Republicans who support that bill have been reluctant to openly circumvent their leadership or provoke the ire of some conservatives by signing on to the petition. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) threatened in a Tuesday night GOP meeting to campaign against moderates in their general elections if they move forward with a discharge petition, according to a person familiar with the situation. He also reiterated his opposition to ousting Johnson, that person said.

But if Johnson's plan fails, some GOP centrists predict the discharge petition will start seeing support from their side.

“If this collapses, a bunch of us will have no other choice” but to sign on, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said in a brief interview. "It's probably the only choice we have."

Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.

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