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Johnson racks up losses in the House

Republicans fail to rally around two high-priority party objectives

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

Johnson racks up losses in the House

On Tuesday evening, Republican leadership in the House of Representatives suffered a pair of devastating votes, further dividing the GOP and bringing into question House Speaker Mike Johnson’s ability to hold the caucus together.

Republicans could not rally around either a party-line vote to impeach Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas or a $17.6 billion foreign aid package to Israel—both high-profile priorities for Johnson. The impeachment vote failed 214-216 with four Republican no votes. The Israel package needed a two-thirds majority to pass, and it failed 250-180, with 14 Republicans voting with Democrats against the bill.

The following morning, Republicans vented frustration with leadership on both fronts.

“A little frustrated, yeah,” Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., said when asked about the decision to bring the votes to the floor despite their uncertain support. “I just think we have to think through our strategies. There are ways we could have gotten it done. I think the lead-up could have been different—could have given us a different outcome.”

When asked about what those specific strategies would look like, Donalds declined to paint a fuller picture.

“I think leadership knows what I mean. I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

The impeachment effort began in November when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., first introduced the charges against Mayorkas. After the House initially voted to dismiss the bill, Greene forced it back to the floor less than a month later. This time, instead of bringing the bill to a vote, party leadership agreed to refer the matter to the Homeland Security Committee.

After three months of investigation, the committee voted 18-15 along party lines last week to advance two articles.

First, Republicans claimed that Mayorkas’ use of catch-and-release tactics on illegal immigrants ran contrary to the mandate set out in the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act. By willingly releasing border crossers who should have been detained, he had undermined the country’s laws, Greene and other Republicans argued. Second, Republicans took aim at Mayorkas’ contention that the border was “secure.” That, Republicans argued, was a clear and blatant lie—a breach of public trust.

“The committee has done an extraordinary job, a very deliberate job over a long period of time and five different phases investigating the various things that Secretary Mayorkas has been charged with,” Johnson said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

Before the vote, Greene expressed anger at the idea that any Republicans would vote against it.

“Well, what can Republicans actually do? I would really feel sorry for … actually, I don’t feel sorry for any of them. The ones that vote against this, they’re going to find out that this was a very bad mistake,” Greene said, referencing the 2024 elections.

With respect to Israel, Johnson had made a supplemental funding package a priority, pointing to developing needs in the Middle East for American support.

“This situation has gotten far more dangerous,” Johnson said. “We need to stand with Israel right now and we cannot wait any longer. As desperate times call for desperate measures, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

In the past week, the White House announced retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed forces after three U.S. soldiers lost their lives in a drone attack on Tower 22, a logistics support base in Jordan that houses about 350 American service members. Additionally, the United States and the United Kingdom have jointly carried out strikes against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen who have targeted ships on their way through one of the world’s most critical waterways for trade.

Many Republicans agreed with Johnson. When asked what it would mean if the chamber failed to pass the Israel aid, Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., said Republicans should be wary of a perceived U.S. slowness to come to the defense of its allies.

“What do I think the message is? Listen, the United States has allies,” McClain said. “We need to stand with our allies. We are supposed to be leaders. We need to act like leaders. This is serious.”

Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., voted to impeach Mayorkas but voted against the Israel bill, citing a concern over the cost of the $17.6 billion package. Without offsets, he said, it simply didn’t carry his support. He’s frustrated with the GOP but said the party should continue its deliberations over priorities—even when faced with messy votes.

“We have a razor-thin majority and that makes everything harder. And unlike the other party, we aren’t required to move in lockstep,” Crane said. “And I actually think that’s a benefit and a testament to the Republican Party that we have free thinkers. Does it hurt us sometimes? Absolutely.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD reporter covering politics in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Patrick Henry College.

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