Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Johnson Is Confronting Biden Already

That didn't take long. Newly minted House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is feeling his oats and wants to show Joe Biden who's boss around town. He is planning to force a vote today on a bill that gives aid only to Israel, with aid to Ukraine "later." Also, it pays for the aid by cutting the funding to the IRS, which will increase the deficit. IRS estimates that for every dollar it gets in funding, it collects $12 in taxes it would otherwise not collect. But Johnson's rich donors very much like the idea of weakening IRS, deficit be damned.

Biden and many Republican senators think that the aid-to-Ukraine bill will show up sometime after the rapture, if then, and want it coupled to the aid-to-Israel bill. Democrats are already hammering Johnson on his idea of cutting tax enforcement so wealthy tax cheats can get away with it. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) said: "Speaker Johnson is failing his first test. Conditioning aid to Israel on helping the rich avoid taxes is cynical partisanship, not leadership." Did Auchincloss expect otherwise? Probably not. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called it a gift to wealthy tax avoiders. He is pushing the Senate to approve Joe Biden's entire $100 billion request. Johnson probably knows that his bill will never become law, but he wants to get Democrats on record opposing aid to Israel so Republicans can use that in ads in 2024. It is not clear Democrats will take the bait, though. Some accused him of cynicism by attaching the aid to a poison pill. To make it worse, if House Democrats stick together and all vote against the bill, it might fail in the House, because Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Chip Roy (R-TX) and some other Republicans are against aid to Israel.

But Johnson's problem is much bigger than Democratic opposition. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been adamant that funding for both wars must be in the same bill. This means that Johnson is not only at war with the Democrats, but also with Senate Republicans. Not a great start in his new job. McConnell is not going to allow himself to be bulldozed by a guy who has been on the job for a week. McConnell could offer amendments to put back the Ukraine aid, beef up funding for border security, and remove the cuts to the IRS. That would probably mean most Democrats and many Republicans would sign on since they don't want to deal with ads next year of the type: "Sen. X or Rep. Y voted against tightening up border security."

It will be very informative to see how this plays out. If Johnson ends up with very little of what he wants because McConnell doesn't want it, he will soon be transmuted into an animal—a paper tiger or a lame duck, your choice. Of course, if he gets what he wants, he will be seen as a raging bull. (V)

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