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House set to vote on aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Another tumultuous week in the Republican-led House of Representatives, and you know it ain't over. The House will vote today on aid for Ukraine as part of a larger package to support U.S. allies. And because of that, enough Republicans have joined an effort that could cost Speaker Mike Johnson his job.

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MIKE JOHNSON: We have to do the right thing. And I'm going to allow an opportunity for every single member of the House to vote their conscience and their will on this. And I think that's the way this institution is supposed to work. And I'm willing to take personal risk for that because we have to do the right thing, and history will judge us.

SIMON: NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins us. Claudia, thanks so much for being with us.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Mr. Johnson was once opposed to giving more aid to Ukraine. What changed?

GRISALES: A lot. Yes, Johnson was opposed without assurances of new U.S. border policy changes being attached to this legislation. It was that reason he refused to take up a Senate bipartisan bill because it did not have those changes. But we've since learned that Johnson changed his position after intelligence briefings and extensive prayer. Here he is earlier this week talking about the risks if Ukraine is defeated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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JOHNSON: I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed. I think he might go to the Balkans next. I think he might have a showdown with Poland or one of our NATO allies.

GRISALES: He also quoted President John Quincy Adams saying, quote, "duty is ours. Results are God's." So now Johnson is facing threats from members of his own party that he could be forced out.

SIMON: Where does that threat stand now?

GRISALES: Well, Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene started the initial steps for a so-called motion to vacate. And she could take additional steps to force a vote because of this Ukraine aid getting on the floor. This has been a red line for her. Also, she's had two more Republicans join her to co-sponsor that effort - Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Paul Gosar of Arizona. This could be the votes she needs to force him out of office. But again, she has not forced this vote yet, and it is possible Democrats step in to save Johnson.

SIMON: And Democrats played an enormous role in moving this package of foreign aid bills to the floor in the first place, didn't they?

GRISALES: Yes, exactly. And this aid also includes aid to Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific. And they would not be getting votes today if Democrats had not stepped in. Here's Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries talking to reporters yesterday.

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HAKEEM JEFFRIES: House Democrats have once again cleared the way for legislation that is important to the American people to be processed and considered on the House floor.

GRISALES: And what he's referring to is some rare moves we saw this week, with Democrats helping get a procedural rule passed to allow votes on this bill today. And Jeffries defended Johnson's role, as well, saying that he played a bipartisan role to get this done.

SIMON: Have Democrats signaled that they might step in to save Speaker Johnson?

GRISALES: Publicly, no. But they have signaled they might. This is very different from what we saw when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted. Democrats railed against McCarthy, and that is not the case here. In fact, Jeffries earlier this year said it was possible Democrats would protect Johnson if he put foreign aid on the floor. And he was asked about this again yesterday and said the caucus would have to have a discussion. But he did note this aid needed to pass in totality first.

SIMON: And the Senate is still up there, aren't they?

GRISALES: Exactly. They reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, ahead of the critical deadline, and they're hoping to work through the weekend to take up these foreign aid bills, assuming the House passes them.

SIMON: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Claudia, thanks so much for being with us.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.