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House Speaker Mike Johnson faces a puzzle of how to pass legislation providing military aid to Ukraine and Israel and dealing with border security in a way that doesn't result in his ouster.

Speaker Faces Political Puzzle on Aid to Ukraine and Israel and Border Security

The House is on spring break, but there is no break from the internal discord of the Republican caucus that could force another vote to oust another speaker.

The right-wing of the House Republican caucus left town grousing about the deals Speaker Mike Johnson cut with Democrats to move a $1.2 trillion passel of appropriations and narrowly avoid a partial government shutdown last weekend. Less than half of his caucus voted for the package.

It was the third time Johnson has been forced to rely on Democratic votes to pass legislation. A similar scenario led to the ouster of Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.

The next set of landmines for Johnson involves military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, along with border security policy. Johnson will navigate these issues under the cloud of a motion to remove him submitted by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, after the appropriations vote. He also has a slimmer majority because of GOP member resignations.

That slimmer majority seems bent on pursuing internal quarrels. House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good, R-Virginia, pledged to spend the rest of the year making “it as uncomfortable and as painful as possible” for Republicans who voted for the appropriations package.

Johnson and Democratic Votes
Johnson’s dilemma is that he will need Democratic votes to prevent his ouster If Greene’s motion is brought to the House floor. Democrats have communicated to Johnson’s allies they won’t support his removal if he brings Ukraine military aid to a House floor vote.

“If they call forward that motion to vacate vote because he has brought Ukraine funding, I will whip votes to table that,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, D-Virginia. “Let’s be responsible grownups and protect democracy and not give Vladimir Putin a win.”

Johnson says he’s exploring options for House action after spring break. Johnson issued a statement before leaving town promising “an aggressive plan” to deal with border security and “restore historic, bipartisan support for Israel”. He also foreshadowed a plan of action on Ukraine that could include more sanctions on Russia and a combination of funding and loans for military equipment.

It will be a chess game for Johnson on how to package all that. Democrats may be unwilling to support harsh border security policies that Republican hardliners want, even if they are bundled with Ukraine and Israel military aid. Donald Trump, as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, may demand separate votes that he can highlight on the campaign trail. Johnson also has to take into account a strong bipartisan Senate majority favoring aid to Ukraine and Israel.

There are two discharge petitions circulating in the House. One would bring the Senate-passed military aid bill to the House floor for a vote. The other would do the same for the Problem-Solvers Caucus compromise that includes scaled down military funding and some GOP-backed border security measures. For now, neither has enough signatures to force a House floor vote.

Both parties have challenges from their respective extremes. Democratic progressives are wary of giving military aid to Israel without a ceasefire and funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza. Right-wing Republicans insist on voting separately for aid to Ukraine, Israel and border security policies.

Johnson lost one piece of leverage when the $1.2 trillion spending bill included funding for 42,000 new migrant detention beds and hiring 22,000 additional Border Patrol agents.

Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Texas and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appeared last Sunday on Face the Nation and said Johnson was in a “difficult spot”. He also said ousting Johnson now “could actually throw the balance of power to [House Democratic Leader] Hakeem Jeffries.”

“We don’t need dysfunction right now,” McCaul said. “With the world on fire the way it is, we need to govern.”

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer pushes bill to close loophole
exploited to import fake designer goods, products made
with forced labor and precursor chemicals for fentanyl.

Blumenauer and Import Loophole
Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, leads a bipartisan effort to partially close a loophole that allows packages with goods valued at less than $800 to enter the United States without a tariff or an inspection.

Blumenauer is urging Congress to pass legislation that would make small shipments from China subject to tariffs and inspections. He claims the $800 exemption has been exploited to bring in fake designer goods, products made with forced labor and precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl.

“What was once intended to improve efficiency has morphed into a dangerous loophole that threatens American competitiveness, consumer safety, exploits forced labor and contributes to the fentanyl crisis in our communities, Blumenauer says. “My legislation is narrowly tailored to stop areas of abuse. It is past time for Congress to act.”

In an NPR interview, Blumenauer said he voted earlier to raise the de minimis exception from $200 to $800, largely to avoid Customs logjams for citizens returning from overseas trips with gifts or special purchases. Now, critics blame importers such as Temu for exploiting the exception to undercut prices from other retailers.

A coalition of business organizations, domestic manufacturers and labor unions are pressing for action on the bill to close the loophole, at least for goods shipped from China. Blumenauer introduced the Import Security and Fairness Act last June.

“Our nation’s trade laws let billions of goods from China into the U.S. market duty free because of de minimis, but American workers and businesses face significant market hurdles to reach 900 million consumers in China. For American workers and businesses, there is a basic issue of fairness.” says Roy Houseman, legislative director for the United Steelworkers.

“The de minimis provision is an outdated provision that has become a dangerous gateway that allows millions of direct mail shipments of illicit narcotics from anywhere in the world to enter the U.S. market virtually uninspected, destroying families and entire communities and overwhelming law enforcement agencies, like those that we represent,” says Andrea Edmiston of the National Association of Police Organizations.