Johnson Needs Democrats on Ukraine, Handing Them Power to Shape Aid Plan

Speaker Mike Johnson’s elaborate plan for pushing aid to Ukraine through the House over his own party’s objections relies on an unusual strategy: He is counting on House Democrats and their leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, to provide the votes necessary to clear the way for it to come to the floor.

If Democrats were to provide those crucial votes, it would mark the second time in two years that Republican leaders have had to turn to the minority party to rescue them from their own recalcitrant right-wing colleagues in order to allow major legislation to be debated and voted on.

Given Republicans’ tiny margin of control, Mr. Johnson will need their support on the aid itself. But before he even gets to that, he will need their votes on a procedural motion, known as a rule, to even bring the legislation to the floor — an unconventional expectation of the minority party.

That puts Democrats once again in a strange but strong position, wielding substantial influence over the measure, including which proposed changes, if any, are allowed to to be voted on and how the foreign aid is structured. After all, Mr. Johnson knows that if they are unsatisfied and choose to withhold their votes, the legislation risks imploding before it even comes up.

The dynamic also increases the likelihood that Mr. Johnson will need Democrats again — to save his precarious speakership, now under threat from two members of his party, Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. They are enraged at his strategy for sending aid to Ukraine and every day appear to be edging closer to calling a vote to oust him from his post.

“We’re steering toward everything Chuck Schumer wants,” Mr. Massie said on Tuesday, referring to the Democratic Senate majority leader. (Without Democratic help, Mr. Johnson can afford to lose two Republicans, if all members are present and voting, meaning the legislation to send aid to Ukraine would be dead far before arrival.)

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