'I am not resigning': Johnson at risk as he forges ahead on Ukraine, Israel aid

Another GOP lawmaker said Tuesday he'd join a motion to remove Johnson.

April 16, 2024, 3:01 PM

House Speaker Mike Johnson on Tuesday forged ahead with a plan to try to pass aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that's been tied up in a political fight in Washington for months -- even though the move could cost him his job.

Johnson has laid out a proposal to split the $95 billion foreign aid package passed by the Senate into three separate bills, one for each country, and a fourth bill loaded with conservative priorities.

Johnson spoke with President Joe Biden on Monday before unveiling his plan to his conference, two sources told ABC News. A White House official said the administration was waiting to see the plan "in detail" before discussing with Democrats how to proceed.

But Johnson's approach is already causing more rancor with the right flank of his party, as a second member said Tuesday he would join Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's motion to remove him from the speaker post, in part over aid to Ukraine.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said he told Johnson in a closed-door conference meeting he is cosponsoring Greene's motion, which she introduced last month. Massie said he suggested Johnson "pre-announce" his resignation so Republicans can get to work on finding a new speaker and avoid any lapse in leadership.

ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott asked Johnson at the GOP's weekly news conference for his response to Republicans who say that if he doesn't step aside, they may oust him over this issue.

"I am not resigning," Johnson answered. "And it is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs."

Johnson continued, "It is not helpful to the cause. It is not helpful to the country. It does not help the House Republicans to advance our agenda."

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to the press following a House Conference meeting to discuss Iran's attack on Israel at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images

"I asked him to resign," Massie told ABC News as he left the GOP meeting earlier Tuesday. "He said he would not, and I said you're the one who is going to put us into this. The motion is going to get called, does anybody doubt that? The motion will get called, and he's going to lose more votes than Kevin McCarthy. And I have told him this in private, like weeks ago."

Johnson also made recent comments that prompted frustration from former President Donald Trump's advisers, and forced Johnson's team to issue a new statement, sources told ABC News.

After a show of unity at Mar-a-Lago on Friday, Johnson told Fox News on Sunday it was a great visit and that he and Trump were "100% united on these big agenda items."

But sources said Johnson did not fully lay out the details of this plan for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan to Trump when he met the former president at Mar-a-Lago. Therefore, the former president did not endorse the idea. A source familiar with Johnson's plans told ABC News conversations with members were ongoing through the weekend and there was no final plan yet Friday when the two met.

Sources said frustration from the Trump team prompted Johnson's team to put out another statement, in which Johnson senior adviser Raj Shah clarified Johnson didn't intend to suggest he and Trump are "fully aligned on ... every piece of any legislation."

Shah added, "He was grateful for the President’s gracious words of support on Friday, and will let the President and his team speak about his views on specific matters of national security."

Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the House, which means Johnson can afford only two defections.

However, some Democrats have privately signaled they'd bail out Johnson rather than freeze the House in another month of potential speaker elections.

"We don't like the chaos and dysfunction," House Democratic Caucus chair Pete Aguilar said Tuesday when asked about the motion to vacate during a Democratic news conference.

Aguilar added, "Look, we want this place to work. We want to see aid to Israel, Ukraine, humanitarian assistance and [Indo-Pacific] priorities. That's what we're focused on right now. We can't control the theatrics of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the House Republican conference but we stand willing to stand with anyone who wants to deliver on that help and support."

And some Republicans are fuming over Massie's latest threat to oust Johnson.

"I hate to even dignify it. It's wrong. We voted for the speaker, and we stick with our speaker," Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., told ABC News. "He's trying his very best. He's a good man, he's been dealt a tough hand, and he's playing it the best he can. And we should stand by him."

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said he does not support Massie's effort, as the "last thing this country needs is to throw a speaker out even though I disagree with what he has done. [Johnson] is an honest man."

"I am not concerned about this," Johnson said on Tuesday. "I am going to do my job and I think that's what the American people expected."

Thomas Massie speaks with reporters after announcing that he will co-sponsor a resolution to remove Mike Johnson from the Speaker's post, Washington, DC, April 16, 2024.
Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via Shutterstock

Legislative text for the bills has not yet been released, and Johnson said discussions would continue Tuesday.

"We're still working it out," he said. "We have lots of ideas on the table and we'll be doing that in earnest."

Johnson previously said funding levels would be similar to the Senate package, which provided roughly $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion in security assistance for Israel and nearly $5 billion for partners in the Indo-Pacific.

As for the fourth bill on Republican priorities, details are still being worked out, but it could include measures to ban TikTok and to seize Russian assets to help provide funding to Ukraine.

"We've laid out the plan on how to finally address the supplemental situation. There are precipitating events around the globe that we're all watching very carefully. And we know that the world is watching us to see how we react,” Johnson told reporters Monday, adding he thought this approach would let members vote their conscience on each issue.

Johnson said Monday he expected a possible vote on the bills Friday, before lawmakers will be out of session for a week-long recess.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he was "reserving judgment" on Johnson's proposal for individual foreign aid bills until more information is released, but stressed the only way to proceed is in a bipartisan manner.

"Hopefully we will get details of the speaker's proposal later today," Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor. "Again, time is of the essence. Israel was attacked for the first time in its history directly by Iran. The people of Ukraine are now in all-out desperation ... and anyone who thinks that the war in Ukraine will stay in Ukraine, remember the warning of Japanese Prime Minister [Fumio] Kishida: Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow."

ABC News' Lauren Peller, Mariam Khan, Benjamin Siegel Justin Gomez, Katherine Faulders and John Santucci contributed to this report.