Members of Congress better have made the most of their two week Easter vacation because April is shaping up to be a doozy.

March seemed busy enough. Congress barely avoided two partial government shutdowns on March 8 and March 22. To avert the partial shutdown on March 22, the last day Congress was in session in March, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion appropriations package. The 1,012-page bill was dropped in the dead of night, around 3 a.m. on March 21. A mere 36 hours later, members of Congress were forced to vote on the package. Under suspension of the rules, the House passed the $1.2 trillion spending package by a vote of 286 to 134. Although the House is in Republican hands, just 101 Republicans—less than half of the House GOP conference—voted in favor of the bill.

After several rounds of continuing resolutions culminating in an appropriations package that did little to secure the southern border and was passed in violation of House rules negotiated with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, frustration with House Speaker Mike Johnson was reaching a boiling point. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to vacate the Speaker, but did not ask for privilege on the resolution before Congress left for vacation. The motion remains primed in the hopper.

Johnson reached out to Greene over the Easter break to try and smooth things over, according to Greene, but the effort doesn’t seem to have been very successful. “He reached out to me Thursday night before Good Friday and left me a strange voicemail about how he’s traveling all over and he’s exhausted. And no matter how tired he was, he wanted to try to get on the phone with me,” Greene told POLITICO. “I’m like, ‘Why do I want to talk to someone that’s so exhausted?’” Greene added. “That’s not good.” 

Johnson, according to Greene, then texted the Georgia representative on Tuesday proposing a time to chat Wednesday, but Greene counterproposed a Friday talk. Whether the conversation will come to fruition remains unclear.

However that may be, Greene’s motion to vacate poses a major threat to Johnson’s speakership. If Johnson cannot convince Greene to back down, Greene will trigger a vote on her resolution by seeking privilege. If she does, Johnson has 48 legislative hours to handle the resolution.

Nevertheless, Johnson might be able to convince Greene to back down by properly handling an issue set to return to center stage in April: Ukraine aid.

While the Senate has passed a sans–border security $95 billion supplemental aid package for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo Pacific, and various humanitarian causes, Johnson has thus far refused to bring the package to the floor. Increasing Ukraine skepticism among the GOP conference and clear red lines drawn by members to Johnson’s right have made it clear that capitulation to President Biden and the Schumer-controlled Senate on Ukraine aid would mark the end of Johnson’s tenure. 

Over the past few months, Johnson has hinted there might be ways to get Ukraine aid through the House without nuking his speakership. 

Johnson’s plan, it seems, is to offer Kiev an aid package in the form of a loan, as European countries and institutions have done previously. Johnson would also like to attach REPO Act provisions to future Ukraine aid, which would enable the Biden administration to sell off confiscated Russian assets to provide funding for Ukraine. In the U.S., that funding total amounts to $6 or $7 billion, POLITICO reported. In Belgium, however, $225 billion of Russian assets have been frozen since the war broke out. In addition to REPO provisions, Johnson might try to slip in provisions ending Biden’s ban on new liquid natural gas export applications, which the administration has suggested is a non-starter.

For Johnson, the logic is as follows: Including a plan to offset the cost of Ukraine aid in the long run—no matter how doubtful—is the best chance he has to secure the support of a majority of the GOP conference in a vote on Ukraine aid, given that some Ukraine skeptics have cited runaway spending and the $35 trillion in U.S. debt as reasons for voting against Ukraine aid. 

Nevertheless, if Johnson wants to pass Ukraine aid with a simple majority, the bill will have to go through the Rules Committee, where conservative members are represented by the trio of Reps. Ralph Norman, Chip Roy, and Thomas Massie—all Ukraine skeptics. If Johnson wants to bypass the Rules Committee, the Speaker will once again have to opt for passing the package under suspension. Bypassing the Rules Committee, and all House conservatives by extension, would likely lead to another vote where a major piece of legislation passes on primarily Democratic support. Johnson would be toast.

Greene made that abundantly clear to CNN’s Manu Raju. Greene called Johnson’s Ukraine loan proposal a “heaping, steaming pile of bullsh*t” that is “insulting to the American people.” Forcing such a package through under suspension would in turn force her hand, Greene told Raju.

If Johnson wants to placate Greene and other conservatives, and avoid getting the boot, Johnson should pass Ukraine aid attached to the House’s strong border-security bill, HR 2, which previously united the GOP conference. If Ukraine is as big of a priority as Biden and the Democrats suggest, they’ll have to come to the table. If they don’t, then Ukraine wasn’t the world-ending conflict it has been made out to be.

Ukraine aid isn’t the only major issue Congress will have to take on in the coming weeks, either. FISA Section 702 is set to expire on April 19. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, enacted on 2008, permits the National Security Agency to surveil targets in foreign nations. In doing so, however, the NSA collects vast amounts of information and data in dragnets that it then allows the FBI to sift through. The system is rife with abuse. For example, a 2023 court order found that the FBI improperly searched for information in foreign intelligence stores nearly 300,000 times in 2020 and early 2021, including for information on Americans who were at the Capitol on January 6 or participated in George Floyd protests.

Rather than a partisan battle, however, FISA renewal’s current issue is a Committee turf war between the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.

The source of the disagreement is whether or not the FBI and national security agencies must go to court to obtain search warrants in order to surveil a U.S. citizen. Judiciary, led by Chairman Jim Jordan and Ranking Member Jerry Nadler, wants to add this requirement to FISA, whereas Intelligence, led by Chairman Michael Turner and Ranking Member Jim Himes, wants to leave it out. To no surprise, the Intelligence Committee position has the backing of the intel agencies.

The divide has forced Johnson to pull FISA bills twice already, once in December and once in February. Even when Johnson forced Jordan and Turner to the negotiating table, neither was willing to come to an agreement. Where Johnson goes from here remains unknown, but the advantage seems to be on the side of the Intelligence Committee’s view, given its deep state backing.

Then, of course, there’s impeachment—of the president, members of his cabinet, and maybe more. Last week, the National Archives and Records Administration provided the House Oversight Committee 211 emails with 6,000 pages of records in response to requests made by Chairman James Comer. The House will also be sending its articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate in short order. With a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate needed to convict, both impeachments are doomed to fail. But that’s not the point of the exercise. House Republicans are hoping to air as much of the Biden administration’s dirty laundry as possible before the election.

It’s turning into a maximum pressure campaign. Republican House Committee chairs levied nearly 50 oversight requests to a bevy of agencies over the month of March. One GOP aide told POLITICO that the House GOP does not view these inquiries, which will start to take more shape over the next few weeks, as a replacement for impeachment. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland could be the House GOP’s next big target. Oversight and Judiciary are threatening to hold the attorney general in contempt if he fails to respond to a subpoena for the audio recording of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interview with president Biden in the coming days.

Other oversight efforts by the House GOP included in the slew of requests cover the Biden administration’s management of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the origins of Covid-19, and two DOJ tax attorneys that worked on Hunter Biden’s case.

The appropriations process for fiscal year ’25 should begin this month as well, at least according to statute—but who pays attention to those these days?

One misstep along the way, and Greene could take to the podium to request privilege on her motion to vacate Johnson. If she waits until after April 19, when Rep. Mike Gallagher abandons his post, just one GOP vote could decide whether Johnson keeps the Speaker’s gavel.

Originally found on American Conservative. Read More

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