Mike Johnson: The wartime Speaker battling on multiple fronts

"I regard myself as a wartime Speaker," declared House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

Only, we’re not sure if Johnson was referring to the internecine war among Republicans over whether he should keep his job.

Many members wear pocket squares with their suits. But not Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. He walks around with a self-made, diode "debt clock" tucked into the breast pocket of his jacket, tracking the skyrocketing debt. Massie’s ascending fiscal chronometer may have read more $34 trillion dollars this week. But the only number which mattered on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning was "two." As in two House members who were ready to oust Johnson from his job: Massie and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. 

"The motion (to remove Johnson) will get called. And then he’s going to lose more votes than (former House Speaker) Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., And I told him this in private, like two weeks ago," said Massie. 


A reporter asked Massie about what that meant, not having a leader – again – for the second time in less than a year. 

"Some would say we’d be rudderless. But we have a rudder. We’re steering everything toward (Senate Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.," replied Massie. "There has not been a change. I mean, if the country likes Chuck Schumer, then they should like what Speaker Johnson’s accomplished in the House." 

There’s strength in numbers – even if the numbers are low. After all, it’s about the math. It matters even more in a House which is currently split at 218 Republicans to 213 Democrats. That meager Republican majority shrivels to 217-213 after Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., quits. Gallagher was supposed to leave Friday. But Fox is told that the Wisconsin Republican will at least hang around until Saturday as the House tries to approve the international aid supplemental package for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. 

Greene beamed at the support from Massie for her effort to remove Johnson.

"It was significant," said Greene of Massie’s backing. "It also lets people know this is a lot more serious than people realized."

Greene echoed Massie, suggesting "there’ll be more" Republicans who might vote to remove Johnson "than were against Kevin McCarthy." 

Here’s the problem for Greene. She doesn’t have someone who could win a Speaker’s vote on the floor. That’s why the House burned 22 days on the calendar last October and thrashed through three nominees for Speaker before finally settling on Johnson. If the House approved a "motion to vacate the chair" (a "MTV," which removes the Speaker), there’s no telling how long it would take the get a successor this time.

"I don’t think that the threat is really real at this point, just because you don’t have an alternative," said Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., who was a top lieutenant to McCarthy. "We saw what happened last fall when this all went down. There’s not an alternative."


Graves said a number of conservatives who were mad at Johnson "don’t think past step one. Which is why we have so many problems here right now." 

Graves asserted that the "painful scars" of the McCarthy debacle would be "a major disincentive for folks who actually pull the trigger on a motion to vacate."

There was significant blowback from conservatives after Johnson announced a four-pronged approach to grapple with the Middle East. Especially after the House plotted a course for the week of 17 bills dealing either with Israel or Iran. Johnson tailored his pitch on the foreign aid measure. He planned one bill for Israel. One for Ukraine. One for Taiwan. The final bill would include a plan to repossess Russian assets and grant some of the assistance to Ukraine as a "lease." That’s an option endorsed by former President Trump. But the sweetener to the fourth bill would be a measure to curb the use of TikTok in the U.S.

The House would then package the four bills together and send them to the Senate.

"It's got a chance of passing," said Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, Tuesday morning. But if you "MIRV" them together and pretend that they were really separate votes, but at the end of the day, it has the effect of being one vote. I mean, that's all smoke and mirrors."

Davidson characterized the TikTok provisions as "camouflage for defending America."

"‘MIRV’ them together?"

"MIRV" is a Capitol vocabulary term you’re going to hear about as the House tries to advance the four separate foreign aid bills - and then blend them into one for efficiency purposes before sending the package to the Senate.


It’s pronounced "merve." A "MIRV" is a vestige of the Cold War and missile counts between the United States and Soviet Union. It stands for "Multiple Independently-Targetable Re-Entry Vehicle." Each MIRV had multiple nuclear warheads or "MIRVs" attached. This was an issue of contention between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Was a MIRV counted as one missile or four or five? 

The idea is that the House would vote on each individual bill - then blend them together as one for the Senate. 

A parliamentary MIRV!  

Hence why conservatives are upset about the plan by Johnson. It’s four bills. Or is it one? 

Johnson defended the MIRV maneuver.

"I’m concerned that Israel might not pass through the Senate right now if it’s not included in the package," said Johnson. "If you separate them, then none of our priorities will be reflected, I’m afraid."

Conservatives have also implored Johnson to attach border security to the plan. But that might not be feasible.

"We don’t have the votes. If you put Ukraine in any package, you can’t also do the border because I lose Republican votes on that rule. My friends don’t get it," replied Johnson. 

"Are they still your friends?" asked yours truly.

"They’re all my friends," said Johnson. "I love everybody in this building." 

Johnson made his decision on Monday against taking the streamlined Senate aid bill approved in February and instead traveled his own route. Initial information about the plan was scant. 

"What are they doing over there?" asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of your reporter on Monday night as we both exited the Capitol. 

The "what" was the House’s approach on an international aid package. But "over there" referred to the U.S. House of Representatives, that hostile, untamed, political wilderness which lies beyond the boundaries of the Capitol Rotunda.  

The Senate isn’t exactly a peaceful place. But considering the contretemps in the House, the Senate is practically Xanadu. Especially as Republicans skirmish with one another over foreign aid, leadership and a wartime Speaker.

Johnson likely forced to get Dem help on foreign aid plan as Republicans decry lack of border measures

The foreign aid plan Speaker Johnson, R-La., unveiled on Monday night is already facing a growing red wave of opposition from his own colleagues as of Tuesday morning, making it likely he will have to seek House Democratic support to get the proposal passed.

Under Johnson’s tentative plan, aid for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel would all be considered as separate bills. A fourth bill would combine miscellaneous national security priorities, including the House’s recently passed bill that could pave the way to a TikTok ban and the REPO Act, a bipartisan measure to liquefy seized Russian assets and send that money to Ukraine.

A lack of any border security measures, however, has prompted even reliable leadership allies to be wary of letting the bills move forward.

"I’m thinking of voting against the rule," Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., told Fox News Digital. "Unless we vote to send something to the Senate the same day that addresses the border, requires the president to take action on his executive orders. Or we can put something with the underlying legislation that would actually do a couple of things – we can stop money from going to NGOs that are transporting individuals, we can stop Homeland Security from releasing criminals into the interior."


While the four bills are designed to get separate House floor votes, they will first have to pass a procedural hurdle known as a rule vote, a House-wide measure that if passed will allow for debate and eventual votes on the four individual pieces. 

Rule votes traditionally fall along party lines, and with Johnson's razor-thin majority, he can only afford to lose two Republicans on any party-line vote – and it's becoming increasingly likely that he might, meaning Democrats will need to break precedent to help get the bills over the line.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., whose disagreements with Johnson have led her to threaten his leadership role, said on Tuesday morning that she would vote against the rule unless the Democrat-controlled Senate took up the House GOP's comprehensive border security bill known as H.R.2 – which Democrats have panned as a nonstarter.

"NO, I am NOT voting for the rule on Johnson’s bundle of funding bills for billions more to Ukraine and other foreign wars. When Joe Biden signs HR2 into law and Schumer holds the Mayorkas impeachment trial in the Senate, I will agree to vote for the rule only," Greene said on X. "Speaker Johnson is not holding Democrats accountable nor leading our Republican majority, he’s actually giving in to Democrats every demand. And he’s using dirty swamp tactics to push through the America Last agenda."


Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, would not say how he would vote on the rule but told reporters, "The rule that was proposed last night at conference will fail."

Other critics of foreign aid similarly declined to say how they would vote but signaled they were opposed to Johnson's proposal itself.

"I think it leaves much to be desired. It doesn't have border control in it, it doesn't have any pay-fors in it," Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., told Fox News Digital. "I think those are two problems."

Other Republicans, however, argued it's a better plan than the Senate-passed $95 trillion supplemental aid package that its leaders are now pressuring Johnson to take up.

"No one wants to swallow the senate supplemental as a whole, and if we wait any longer without taking any action, that's exactly what's going to happen," Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-N.Y., told Fox News Digital.


Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, R-N.Y., urged his colleagues to remember that they had already passed H.R.2 and have furiously been pushing for Democrats to take it up. He also told Fox News Digital that there were "conversations" about including border provisions before the text is released.

"I think we're in a critical time that, obviously, our allies need our support more than ever, and I hope that there's a way that we could include more border security into these packages," D'Esposito said. "But I think we need to remind ourselves that we've as House Republicans done our job. We sent a comprehensive border bill over to the Senate. They have failed to act."

White House deems House impeachment inquiry ‘over,’ President Biden formally declines to testify

The White House formally declined an invitation by House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., for President Biden to testify in connection to his son Hunter’s business dealings.

"As our Office has demonstrated, and you acknowledged in a recent fundraising email, your impeachment investigation is over," Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, wrote in a letter to Comer on Monday. "It is past time for the House to focus on the issues that matter to the American people rather than continuing to waste time and taxpayer resources on this partisan charade." 

Sauber said the House Oversight Committee’s impeachment inquiry "has succeeded only in turning up abundant evidence that, in fact, the President has done nothing wrong." 

"Yet rather than acknowledge this reality, your March 28, 2024, letter contains the same litany of false allegations that have been repeatedly debunked and refuted by the very witnesses you have called before your Committee and the many documents you have obtained," the special counsel told Comer. "Your insistence on peddling these false and unsupported allegations despite ample evidence to the contrary makes one thing about your investigation abundantly clear:  The facts do not matter to you." 


The National Review published a full copy of the letter also obtained by The Associated Press and other outlets.

Reacting to President Biden’s refusal to testify, Comer issued a blistering statement on his X account, declaring, "The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in the Biden family." 

"Like his son, Hunter Biden, President Biden is refusing to testify in public about the Bidens’ corrupt influence peddling," Comer wrote. "This comes as no surprise since President Biden continues to lie about his relationships with his son’s business partners, even denying they exists when his son said under oath during a deposition that they did. It is unfortunate President Biden is unwilling to answer questions before the American people and refuses to answer the very simple, straightforward questions we included in the invitation. Why is it so difficult for the White House to answer those questions? The American people deserve transparency from President Biden, not more lies."

Despite providing testimony behind closed doors, Hunter Biden declined to testify in a public committee alongside former business associates, Tony Bobulinski and Jason Galanis, regarding alleged "pay-for- influence" schemes to provide access to certain offices in exchange for payments to the Biden family.    

Notably, Bobulinski at the committee hearing accused Hunter Biden and his uncle, James Biden, of lying under oath regarding the nature of their dealings with the Chinese conglomerate CEFC. 

In a March 28 letter, Comer invited President Biden to "explain, under oath," what involvement he had in the Biden family businesses, claiming the committee "has accounted for over $24 million that has flowed from foreign sources to you, your family and their business associates." 


The letter included questions about Biden’s interactions with specific foreign business officials. 

Comer told President Biden that "you have asserted your pressuring Ukraine in 2015 to fire a government official investigating a company in which your son has a financial interest was wholly in line with U.S. policy." 

The committee received bank records showing Hunter Biden was paid $1 million per year for his position on the board of the Ukrainian company Burisma until Joe Biden left office, when Hunter’s salary "was inexplicably cut in half," Comer wrote. The letter specifically asks if President Biden has interacted with executives at Burisma Holdings, which was at the center of the indictment of a former FBI informant in February who the Justice Department accused of providing false information to the FBI.  

The indictment says the former informant, Alexander Smirnov, claimed that during meetings with Burisma executives, they admitted to hiring Hunter to "protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems," and later that they had specifically paid $5 million for such protection. But the DOJ goes on the claim that those events that Smirnov first reported to the FBI Agent in June 2020 were "fabrications." 

Sauber, who was brought on in 2022 to oversee the president’s response to congressional investigations into the Biden family, is leaving the White House early next month to return to the private sector. 

To replace him, the White House is elevating his deputy, Rachel Cotton. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Biden hosts Czech leader at White House to promote Ukraine aid amid holdup in Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden urged the U.S. House to immediately take up Senate-passed supplemental funding for Ukraine and Israel on Monday as he hosted Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala in the Oval Office.

The visit came as Biden aimed to highlight the efforts other nations are making to support Ukraine. It followed the Czech government’s announcement that it is sending 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition to Ukraine, which Kyiv says is badly needed on the battlefield against Russia's invasion.


"As the Czech Republic remembers, Russia won’t stop at Ukraine," Biden said. He appealed to Congress to pass the supplemental funding so the U.S. could do its part to help Ukraine. "They have to do it now," Biden said.

Fiala praised the U.S. president for his leadership in support of Ukraine, adding, "We are also doing our best."

He said, "In 1968 I saw Russian tanks in the streets of my town, and I don’t want to see this again."

Biden called the Czech Republican a "great ally" in NATO, as Fiala said his country's decision to purchase F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. will "make our cooperation and security much stronger."

Fiala told reporters following his sit-down with Biden that he will meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to further discuss Ukraine aid.

"The support from U.S., the help from U.S. is very important," Fiala said.

House tees up 17 bills related to Iran/Israel for this week

FOX is told to expect a "robust foreign policy week" after this weekend’s events between Iran and Israel. 

The House is ditching its original plan for "appliance week" and putting 17 bills on the floor "to hammer" Iran or show support for Israel.


Eleven bills will be on the suspension calendar, meaning they require a 2/3 vote to pass. One of those bills would ratchet up sanctions on Iran

Six bills would head to the Rules Committee. Included in that batch is a bill to condemn Iran for the attack

What about aid for Israel?


"That’s still being negotiated between the speaker and the White House," said a senior House Republican source. 

FOX is told it’s still possible aid to Israel is tied to assistance to Ukraine. 

Finally, FOX is told that the plan is to send the impeachment articles for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday. But FOX is told that could change based on events in Israel. 

House tees up 17 bills related to Iran/Israel for this week

FOX is told to expect a "robust foreign policy week" after this weekend’s events between Iran and Israel. 

The House is ditching its original plan for "appliance week" and putting 17 bills on the floor "to hammer" Iran or show support for Israel.


Eleven bills will be on the suspension calendar, meaning they require a 2/3 vote to pass. One of those bills would ratchet up sanctions on Iran

Six bills would head to the Rules Committee. Included in that batch is a bill to condemn Iran for the attack

What about aid for Israel?


"That’s still being negotiated between the speaker and the White House," said a senior House Republican source. 

FOX is told it’s still possible aid to Israel is tied to assistance to Ukraine. 

Finally, FOX is told that the plan is to send the impeachment articles for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday. But FOX is told that could change based on events in Israel. 

Johnson to meet Trump at Mar-a-Lago amid speakership threat

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., will meet former President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Friday as the embattled House leader faces a threat to his speakership from Trump loyalist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

Johnson and Trump have already been at odds on the House passing an additional $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, which Johnson has for months declined to allow the House to vote on legislation already passed by the Democratic-led Senate. 

Trump has previously stated that he would end the war within 24 hours should he be reelected, while he has also touted converting the cost of weapons transfers to Ukraine into a loan.

Trump also encouraged GOP lawmakers to successfully "kill" reauthorizing FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a measure Johnson backed. The speaker is set to try again to push the measure through the House.


Meanwhile, earlier this month, Greene authored a resolution to force the House to take a vote of no confidence in the speaker. Greene railed at Johnson for negotiating spending bills with Democrats and forgoing the GOP’s internal rule, requiring 72 hours before voting on legislation.

She is also a staunch opponent of providing more aid to Ukraine. Greene and Johnson met on Wednesday, with Greene saying she is still frustrated with the speaker’s handling of several hot-button issues.


Nevertheless, Trump is expected to back the leadership of Johnson, who defended the former president in two impeachment trials.

In fact, Friday’s meeting has been billed as a "major announcement on election integrity," and to tout legislation that would prevent noncitizens from voting, although no further details have been provided.

The joint appearance will also give Johnson an opportunity to publicly showcase his close ties to Trump.

"It’s about Trump embracing Johnson," former Speaker Newt Gingrich said of Friday’s joint appearance, per the New York Times. "This is Trump saying, ‘He is the speaker, I am his friend, we are together.’ That’s a pretty important thing for him. He just has to endure."

The high-profile joint appearance comes days after Trump met with former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron at Mar-a-Lago.

Biden-appointed judge torches DOJ for defying subpoenas after prosecuting Trump advisor

A President Biden-appointed judge slammed the Justice Department’s apparent hypocrisy on Friday for allowing attorneys involved in the Biden family investigation to defy subpoenas — even though former Trump advisor Peter Navarro is sitting in prison for doing the same thing.

District Judge Ana Reyes ripped the DOJ at a status conference for not letting DOJ lawyers Mark Daly and Jack Morgan provide testimony as part of the House Judiciary Committee's investigation into the Biden family and the impeachment inquiry into the president. 

"There’s a person in jail right now because you all brought a criminal lawsuit against him because he did not appear for a House subpoena," Reyes said during a hearing on the Judiciary Committee’s lawsuit, according to Politico, seemingly referring to Navarro. 


Navarro was sent to prison in March for four months, charged and convicted with contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with a congressional subpoena demanding his testimony and documents relating to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Navarro said he could not cooperate with the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack because Trump had invoked executive privilege, an argument that lower courts have rejected.

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon also received a four-month sentence for similar contempt of Congress charges but was allowed to stay free pending appeal.

"I think it’s quite rich you guys pursue criminal investigations and put people in jail for not showing up," but then direct current executive branch employees to take the same approach, Reyes blasted. "You all are making a bunch of arguments that you would never accept from any other litigant."

"And now you guys are flouting those subpoenas. . . . And you don’t have to show up?" Reyes continued. 

She said that the DOJ’s position would delight defense attorneys up and down the country.

"I imagine that there are hundreds, if not thousands of defense attorneys . . . who would be happy to hear that DOJ’s position is, if you don’t agree with a subpoena, if you believe it’s unconstitutional or unlawful, you can unilaterally not show up," Reyes said. 


Daly and Morgan, two attorneys with the Justice Department’s tax division, were subpoenaed for their "firsthand knowledge of the irregularities in DOJ’s investigation that appear to have benefited Hunter Biden," according to Courthouse News Service. 

The committee says the pair were members of a team that recommended what charges to bring against Hunter Biden for suspected tax crimes in 2014 and 2015 when he served on the board of Ukrainian company Burisma. 

That team initially agreed Hunter Biden should be charged but then reversed course and suggested he should not be charged.

Following the reversal, the Justice Department allowed the statute of limitations for those charges to lapse. The committee argues looking into this timeline is crucial to its investigation.  

Justice Department attorney James Gilligan tried to argue that the decision to defy the subpoena came after lengthy deliberations "at a high level."

He also argued that Daly and Morgan are current government employees, whereas Navarro and Bannon were no longer part of the government when their testimony was demanded, but Reyes seemed unimpressed by that reasoning. 

But her criticism wasn’t all directed at Biden’s DOJ.

Reyes scoffed at a Trump-era Office of Legal Counsel opinion contending that executive branch employees could defy such subpoenas if Justice Department lawyers were not allowed to be present.

She was also astonished that Gilligan wouldn't commit to instructing Daly and Morgan to testify if the committee were to drop its insistence that government counsel not be in the room for their depositions.

"I cannot answer that now," he said. To which Reyes responded, "Are you kidding me?"

Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.  

Media deem Trump the nominee, despite Haley tying him to Putin

Nikki Haley is campaigning hard, making the television rounds and ramping up her rhetoric against Donald Trump.

She is fighting on her home turf – South Carolina, the state that knows her best – and yet the media are acting in many ways as if the campaign is over.

That’s largely because the state’s former governor trails Trump by 22 to 36 percentage points, according to the last several South Carolina polls.


Haley is not only way behind Trump, she’s not closing the gap in a way that makes it a competitive contest on Saturday.

And if she loses by more than 20, the pundits will view that as the final nail in her political coffin.

Beyond that, I can’t think of a single state that Haley can win outright. She says she’ll continue at least through Super Tuesday, but the former president may have mathematically clinched the nomination by then, or shortly afterward.

This is not a knock on Haley (though contemporaries say she burned some bridges in South Carolina). The former U.N. ambassador managed to be the last woman standing, well after Pence, DeSantis, Scott, Christie and the others dropped out. But it’s instructive to look at how she’s campaigning, and why Trump – despite his four indictments and $355 million civil fraud penalty – seems unstoppable.

In a Sunday interview on ABC’s "This Week," Haley increasingly tried to tie Trump to Vladimir Putin’s murderous tactics in the wake of the Arctic prison killing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny:

"When you hear Donald Trump say in South Carolina a week ago that he would encourage Putin to invade our allies if they weren’t pulling their weight, that’s bone-chilling, because all he did in that one moment was empower Putin. And all he did in that moment was, he sided with a guy that kills his political opponents, he sided with a thug that arrests American journalists and holds them hostage, and he sided with a guy who wanted to make a point to the Russian people, don’t challenge me in the next election or this will happen to you too."


What’s more, Haley told Jonathan Karl, "it’s actually pretty amazing that he – not only after making those comments that he would encourage Putin to invade NATO, but the fact that he won’t acknowledge anything with Navalny. Either he sides with Putin and thinks it’s cool that Putin killed one of his political opponents, or he just doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal." 

Trump had said he wouldn’t protect any NATO country that didn’t spend 2% of its funds on defense, and in that case he would encourage Putin and Russia to "do whatever they hell they wanted." He has made no mention of Navalny’s death, which President Biden quickly blamed on Putin.

Haley reminded viewers that if Ukraine falls, Poland or the Baltics could be next.

Now think about this. If a candidate not named Trump had made comments interpreted as potentially blowing up the Atlantic alliance – drawing condemnation from top European leaders – and stayed silent when Russia’s dictator had the opposition leader killed, after a previous poisoning attempt, wouldn’t there be a political uproar?

But since it is Trump, who as president had a friendly relationship with Putin, there has been scant criticism from Republicans. If Trump believes it, most of the party falls into line.

It harkens back to his old 2016 line about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. Just as the Senate seemed on the verge of passing a bipartisan border bill that included aid to Ukraine and Israel, Trump torpedoed the measure by coming out against it.


And in a FOX town hall Sunday night, Haley, who often says her ex-boss was a good president at the time, offered a more negative assessment:

"There were things that he did wrong," Haley told John Roberts. "His press conference in Helsinki, when he went and was trying to buddy up with Putin, I called him out for that. I explained that deeply in my book…how he was completely wrong. Because every time he was in the same room with him, he got weak in the knees. We can't have a president that gets weak in the knees with Putin."

About 20 minutes after Haley used the "weak in the knees" line yesterday on "Fox & Friends," saying Trump has "yet to say anything about Navalny’s death," the ex-president responded on Truth Social: 

"The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country. It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction." You might have noticed the pivot, and the failure to mention Putin at all. 

All this, in a nutshell, is why the press are far more interested in the veepstakes chatter surrounding Trump than in Haley’s dogged campaigning.

What most of the media and other critics fail to understand is that Trump represents the majority of his party. He has remade the GOP in his own image. Most leaders, with the notable exception of the strongly pro-Ukraine Mitch McConnell, follow their leader, as do rank-and-file members afraid of a Donald-backed primary challenger.

Speaker Mike Johnson admitted he consulted with Trump before declaring the border compromise DOA. Marco Rubio, who two months ago helped pass a law barring any president from withdrawing from NATO, said he had no problem with Trump’s remarks about the alliance.

There are even lines that Haley won’t cross. Asked repeatedly on ABC whether she still plans to endorse Trump if he wins, as she said at the campaign’s outset, Haley kept deflecting the question.

A decade ago, Haley’s pro-military and anti-Russia views would have been a comfortable fit for the Republican Party, but that party no longer exists.

Senate voted in favor of $95 billion international spending bill, there may be another around the corner

Members of the House and Senate usually like to gab.

But word of a cryptic, major national security threat against the U.S. cast a pall on Congress this week.

Loggorrheic lawmakers suddenly turned mute when they were sworn to secrecy considering the gravity of Russia potentially deploying a weapon in outer space.

"I can’t discuss this. I’m sorry," lamented Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.

"Absolutely no comment," said Rep. Richie Torres, D-N.Y.


"We should be concerned. It’s serious," offered. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., "That’s all I can say right now."

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., was practically verbose when he chatted up reporters about the threat.

"I’m going to be very precise and I’m not going to take questions," said Johnson.

But Johnson lent little detail into the disconcerting reports.

"Steady hands are at the wheel," said Johnson. "There’s no need for alarm."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said the White House "confirmed that, in their view, the matter was ‘serious.’"

This consternation is cast against the backdrop of the Senate approving a $95 billion international security bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. In other words, if there’s a pressing threat from Russia, this could impact Ukraine.

An eye-popping 70 senators voted in favor of the bill just before daybreak Tuesday morning. Twenty-two Senate Republicans voted yes. Three senators who caucus with the Democrats voted nay.


Twenty-two GOP yeas is not quite half of the 49 member Senate Republican Conference. But that’s still a substantial showing. And 70 votes is a robust figure from the Senate. Seventy yeas would make the bill hard to ignore in the House - under other circumstances.

"I think the House will face a moment of truth. This is a historical moment," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. "You can also be sure our allies are watching, whether in NATO or East Asia, to see whether the United States surrenders, or betrays a partner." 

Democrats demanded that Johnson take up the foreign aid bill. But he immediately resisted. 

"We are not going to be forced into action by the Senate who in the latest product they sent us over does not have one word in the bill about America's border. Not one word about security," said Johnson.

Even though Johnson – and Senate Republicans – mauled a bipartisan Senate compromise for the border.

"What is he afraid of to put national security first to help our country, to push back and push back against (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin, and to make sure that our country is protected?" asked House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.

It’s not often that House members can bypass the leadership and deposit a bill on the floor. But there is a way to do it. The gambit is called a discharge petition.

Here’s how it works:

A discharge petition requires a solid number of 218 House members to sign up to go over the head of the Speaker. The number is locked in at 218, regardless of the side of the House. The House has 435 members at full population. It’s currently at 431 members. Thus, the discharge petition provision wants at least half of the body to favor sidestepping the leadership.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee said he was "absolutely" for a discharge petition.

When asked if most Democrats would sign on, Nadler replied, "yeah, I do."

But not so fast.

Many Democrats might push to advance the foreign aid package. But there are plenty of progressives who aren’t in favor of the bill at all because of concerns for Palestinians.


"I can’t support that bill with aid to Israel," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. "There’s also a lot of concerns about the restrictions on the aid to Gaza that the Senate put into the bill, including suspending aid to UNRWA, which is the only agency that can deliver aid in Gaza."

Moreover, Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., thought it was "premature" to execute a discharge petition. He wanted the House to try to work through the issue and get it on the floor another way.

So certainly more Democrats favor of a discharge petition. But no one knows what might constitute that particular universe of votes. Therefore, a discharge petition certainly needs substantial GOP support.

A successful discharge petition will require the support of advocates for Ukraine and moderate Republicans. Someone in that wheelhouse is Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb. When asked if he was open to signing a discharge petition, Bacon replied "not now." He added he wouldn’t "lean too far forward" just yet.

The Nebraska Republican said "one or two" Democrats talked to him about signing the discharge petition. But he added a caveat.

"I'm interested in finding something we could all agree on," said Bacon.

But that’s just the start.

"I’d never sign a discharge petition when we are in the majority," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., suggested that that signatories weren’t team players for the GOP.

"A discharge petition would be a betrayal on the part of anyone signing it," said Gaetz.

This is why there have only been two successful discharge petitions in the House in the past 22 years.

One was on the House’s version of the famous "McCain-Feingold" campaign finance law, named originally after late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., in 2002. The other was on a measure to renew the Export-Import Bank.

So, this enterprise is challenging. And while it’s an intriguing parliamentary maneuver, the odds – and history – work against discharge petitions.

The House is now out of session until February 28. The Senate is done until the week after next. Another (yes, another) deadline to avert a government shutdown looms on March 1. A bigger one is barreling down the tracks for March 7. And the Senate must wrestle with an impeachment trial for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at the end of the month.

In short, a resolution to the international aid bill isn’t coming soon – if ever.

The threats loom – be a weapon from space for Russia. Threats at the border. Threats from China. The war in Ukraine. Instability in the Middle East.

The Senate finally acted – after a months-long circumnavigation into the border talks.

But there is no viable plan right now to pass the foreign aid package in the House.

It was long said that the Senate is where the House’s hot coffee cools.

In this case, the Senate served the House hot coffee.

And in today’s environment, it’s cooling instead in the House.