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Democrats make shock move to back Republican speaker Mike Johnson

  • By Anthony Zurcher
  • BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Top Democrats in Congress announced Tuesday that their party would throw a lifeline to Mike Johnson if Republicans try to remove him as speaker of the House of Representatives.

A handful of them had suggested they would support Mr. Johnson in his push against conservatives in his own party to push through $61 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

“The time has come to turn the page on this chapter of pro-Putin Republican obstruction,” the House Democratic leadership said in a statement, suggesting that Republicans opposed to supporting Ukraine were helping Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Mr. Johnson, a staunch evangelical conservative from Louisiana who has strong right-wing views on social issues such as abortion, now effectively leads a coalition government in the House.

That could be a bitter pill to swallow for Democrats who disagree categorically with him on his policies and who believe their party could benefit from prolonged Republican turmoil. However, cooperation with the speaker goes beyond just helping Ukraine.

A practical alliance

Earlier this year, Mr Johnson relied on Democratic votes to approve new operational funding for the US government, preventing a partial shutdown of services and keeping many of the Democratic spending priorities intact.

Three weeks ago, he pushed back against members of his own party who wanted to reauthorize a controversial national security surveillance program.

Some conservatives had been pushing for its removal even before Ukraine reached parliament.

In March, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia filed a motion that would trigger a vote on her impeachment. She warned Tuesday that she would soon put this motion to a vote.

“I strongly believe in recorded votes because having Congress recorded allows every American to see the truth and ensures transparency in our votes,” she said on social media.

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

However, rank-and-file House Republicans appear worried about the prospect of another battle, just six months after the previous speaker, Kevin McCarthy, was removed from office.

It took three weeks of bickering and intraparty acrimony before Mr. Johnson, a relatively unknown man, won the job with unanimous Republican support.

Donald Trump has been a key, if somewhat unlikely, ally for Mr Johnson throughout this recent 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” who ” did his best.”

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

Democratic support for Mr. Johnson, along with continued support for Mr. Trump, is likely to ensure he remains in power at least until the November election for the 435 House seats.

If the Republicans retain control of the House – which is far from guaranteed – Mr. Johnson will not be able to count on the support of the Democrats, which opens the possibility of a new moment of reckoning among conservatives.

For now, however, Mr. Johnson said he was focused on his work.

“We have to do what we think is the right thing,” he told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday.

“What the country needs right now is a functioning Congress.”

News Source : www.bbc.com
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