Speaker Mike Johnson facing threat of discharge motions over Ukraine, border battle

 February 23, 2024

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson (LA) has taken a strong stand with regard to the provision of funding to Ukraine and other allies in recent weeks, insisting that it be tied to enhanced border security measures, and his position has now put him in the crosshairs of separate discharge petition drives designed to force a vote on foreign aid, as Newsweek reports.

Notably, Johnson is facing the threat of discharge not just from Democrats but also from a group of Republicans who insist that Ukraine funding is a critical priority on which the United States cannot afford to wait.

As Newsweek explains, Democrats in the House are poised to introduce a discharge petition against Johnson that would force their desired vote on aid to Ukraine in what could prove an effective yet controversial workaround.

For such a petition to succeed, 218 members of the lower chamber -- a tally that would have to include no fewer than four Republicans and probably more due to Democrat opposition to aid to Israel that is also included in the funding package -- would have to agree.

Speaking to the issue directly was Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) who suggested that the petition would be presented imminently and wondered whether a sufficient number of his colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have the “courage” to sign onto it.

Writing on X, Pascrell said, “Coming soon: Democrats will introduce a discharge petition to bring Ukraine funding to the House floor. I will be on line to sign it. The votes are there. Are there a dozen [R]epublicans with a shred of courage to sign it and help Ukraine survive? Stay tuned.”

It is not just Democrats who are working to circumvent Johnson's opposition to the $95 billion Senate-backed aid measure, as a campaign group known as Republicans for Ukraine are also pushing the notion of a discharge petition and doing so in a very public way, as Newsweek noted separately.

It was on Wednesday that the group announced the launch of what was described as a “six-figure” digital ad campaign targeting 10 House Republicans viewed as most likely to lend their support to a discharge petition.

Notably, those involved with the group appear confident in their ability to bring enough Republican lawmakers on board to pass the measure, provided they can get around Johnson's objections to holding a floor vote.

Group spokesperson Gunner Ramer declared, “For generations, the Republican Primary prided itself on standing up to dictators and leading the free world. Many Republicans, including many in Congress, still identify with that party and that role for America. Right now the critical issue in the world is whether free countries will help defeat Putin in Ukraine.”

Ramer's statement went on, “Republicans have a chance to make history, but only if they get to vote. That's why they should sign a discharge petition – it only takes four, but there's safety in numbers.”

Specifically referencing the legislators targeted by the campaign, Ramer added, “These 10 members have been leaders on Ukraine and American national security in the past, and it's time for them to be leaders again.”

The members of Congress the group seeks to persuade includes Mike Gallagher (WI), Mike McCaul (TX), Ken Buck (CO), Mike Rogers (AL), Don Bacon (NE), Mike Turner (OH), Steve Womack (AR), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) Jake Ellzey (TX), and Dan Crenshaw (TX).

Johnson has remained consistent and steadfast in his opposition to the Senate package, saying earlier this month, “House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border,” and whether his adversaries will be able to subvert his will and force a vote, only time will tell.