Dem 51
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Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears?

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) compared Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to Winston Churchill yesterday. That may be taking things a bit far, but certainly the Speaker showed leadership and political skill far in excess of his immediate predecessor, as he managed to steer four foreign aid bills through the House.

Here are the vote tallies for the four bills, which all passed by large margins:

The "present" vote on the Ukraine money was from Rep. Daniel Meuser (R-PA), while the one on the Taiwan money was from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Given the substantial bipartisan support for all of these measures, it's really rather absurd that it took so long for this to get done. The holdup, of course, was the Freedom Caucus and their Dear Leader, who were all substantially weakened by yesterday's results. And, if it were not enough that Congress gave a bunch of money to Ukraine that the FCers and Donald Trump did not want to be given, there was actually a fifth vote yesterday on a right-wing border security bill. That one got 215 "yea" votes to 211 "nays," but since normal order was suspended, it needed 286 votes to pass. Further, the last time this bill came up, it got 219 votes, so it's losing ground.

Next up, the four bills will be bundled into one, and will be sent to the Senate for approval. Since the Senate already voted for a measure with very similar provisions and funding levels, the upper chamber will presumably approve the House measures and send them to the White House, where Joe Biden will surely add his signature.

What happens after that is anyone's guess. From all appearances, it would seem that Johnson has permanently burned his bridges with the FCers, and maybe even with the MAGA crowd in general. So, maybe he is trying to do what Kevin McCarthy would not or could not, and build a bipartisan coalition of members who are actually willing to focus on the people's business, as opposed to spending their time on obstructionism and silly shenanigans. If so, that would be very good news for the country, and would probably also maximize the Republicans' chances of keeping the House.

That said, one cannot forget that Johnson himself is a very conservative, borderline FCer, and that he just made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to prostrate himself before Trump. What was the point of that trip if Johnson knew the relationship was about to end? Maybe he went there to warn the former president that the Ukraine bill had to pass, so as to smooth things out as much as possible. In other words, after a weekend of bipartisanship and kumbayah, maybe Johnson will return to form as McCarthy the Sequel.

Meanwhile, what the FCers will do next is also up in the air. Johnson conveniently scheduled these votes right before a break, so they will have some time to cool down... or to grow even more overheated. There are now three GOP members who say they are ready to toss Johnson overboard: Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ). If all the Democrats were to join them, that's enough to send the Speaker packing. But it's not at all clear that the Democrats WOULD join in on such a maneuver. And if the FCers try to vacate, and get voted down by a huge margin, it will further underscore their newfound weakness.

In short, things are going to get interesting when the House meets again. However, as with Saturday Night Live, we'll have to wait a week to see what the latest episode brings. (Z)

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