Bipartisan rescue: On the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. politics

Moderate congressional Republicans are in a dilemma over following Trump all the way 

Updated - May 10, 2024 01:19 pm IST

Published - May 10, 2024 12:10 am IST

In a rare display of camaraderie across the political divide, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives rushed to the aid of Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson and, alongside others from his party, saved his speakership from termination, by a vote of 359-43 in support of his continuance in that capacity. The threat to his role as the functional head of the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress came from far-right Republican lawmaker and unabashed supporter of former President Donald Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, whose grouse with Mr. Johnson was that he had shepherded and seen through a bill to provide a $95 billion national security aid package to Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies in Asia, with the bill for military support to Kyiv coming in at $61 billion. “By passing the Democrats’ agenda and handcuffing the Republicans’ ability and influence legislation, our elected Republican Speaker Mike Johnson has aided and abetted the Democrats and the Biden administration in destroying our country,” Ms. Greene said, in a speech on the floor of the house that was booed by her fellow Congressmen. In March, Ms. Greene had filed a motion that would trigger a vote to remove Mr. Johnson, and earlier this week she had warned that she would be bringing that motion to a vote. While Mr. Trump is said to have complimented Ms. Greene in a post on the Truth Social platform, even he said that he believed that Republicans were “not in a position” to be voting Mr. Johnson out.

To a significant extent, the House has become the testing ground for factional supremacy within the ranks of the Republican Party, a simmering conflict that has intensified as the presidential election of November 2024 has drawn closer. The lower house witnessed a similar pattern of turmoil during the election of Mr. Johnson’s immediate predecessor, California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, who had to engineer no fewer than 15 rounds of voting to finally secure the Speaker’s chair. Ultimately Mr. McCarthy was dismissed from the role in late October 2023 when his tenure was abruptly ended by a motion to vacate foisted by members of the House Freedom Caucus. This ultra-conservative group has broadly backed the political agenda of Mr. Trump and routinely attacked ‘mainstream’ Republican lawmakers who have relied on bipartisan cooperation to get bills passed, including critical funding for U.S. allies. Even as Voting Day approaches fast from the horizon, moderate congressional Republicans are faced with the festering dilemma that to win their re-election bids they cannot be seen as spoilers who made it harder for Congress to forge critical bipartisan legislation, yet the popularity of Mr. Trump and the stubbornness of his House ideologues make it difficult for them to repudiate a more combative approach to politics.

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