Test of leadership: Johnson’s gavel is in hands of House Democrats

House Democrats are paying close attention to how House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) approaches several annual spending bills that need to be passed before the end of next week.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) suggested he believes several Democrats would protect the Republican speaker if he allows a vote for a foreign aid bill that includes money for Ukraine, a move guaranteed to upset a group of his hard-line members. 

“It does seem to me, based on informal conversations, that were Speaker Johnson to do the right thing relative to meeting the significant national security needs of the American people by putting it on the floor for an up-or-down vote, there will be a reasonable number of people in the House Democratic Caucus who will take the position that he should not fall as a result,” Jefferies told the New York Times. 

Some Democrats have said they would like to avoid another drawn-out battle for the speaker’s gavel. 

“I don’t want to go through another speaker fight. … If he wants to do his job, I would like to support that,” Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) told Axios

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has since retired, was ousted by a group of eight House Republicans, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), over his decision to collaborate with Democrats to keep the federal government open and avoid a shutdown. All House Democrats joined the hard-line Republicans in a vote to remove McCarthy from the speakership in October. 

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McCarthy was willing to make a deal with Democrats to keep the government open, but when it came to his own future, the speaker refused to consider cutting a deal to win their support. As a result, every Democratic House member voted not to keep him as the speaker.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) said that as long as Johnson “doesn’t repeat the mistakes that McCarthy made of punching Democrats in the face when we carried the water,” the Louisiana lawmaker should be safe.

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