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Senate considers foreign aid bill the House passed. Will it cost the speaker his job?


The Senate is expected to vote as soon as tomorrow on bills that will deliver foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan in a package worth roughly $95 billion. A bare majority of Republicans in the House, 112, voted against sending about $61 billion to Ukraine, but they were outnumbered by Democrats, who made passage of the bill a bipartisan effort. After House Speaker Mike Johnson led the House in approving the wartime funding, GOP Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene called for him to step aside, as she's done before. Here she is yesterday on Fox News.


MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: Mike Johnson's speakership is over. He needs to do the right thing, to resign and allow us to move forward in a controlled process.


GREENE: If he doesn't do so, he will be vacated.

MARTIN: We wanted to ask Rina Shah about this because she is a political strategist and has worked as a senior aide to two former Republican members of the House. Rina Shah, good morning.

RINA SHAH: Good morning.

MARTIN: So I just want to be clear that this bill has real consequences for real people. It's not just a political statement. But having said that, what message did Speaker Johnson make by bringing this vote to the floor?

SHAH: Indeed, it's beyond politics in many ways. We're talking about a massive investment for our embattled allies across the globe. And that's not a joke when we look at what they're facing and what it means for us to give them what is an investment. When Speaker Johnson talked about this vote and said he'd rather send bullets than our boys, that felt very massive to me. Now, of course, a lot of this aid - 61 billion is for Ukraine, so the overwhelming majority goes there to Kyiv - but then 26 billion for Israel and 8 billion for allies in our Indo-Pacific region, and then what we're looking at again is a potential ban for TikTok in that fourth bill - so I think this was brilliant legislating on the speaker's part.

We have to remember, he's still a rookie speaker. It's been six months he's been in the job. So for Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman from Georgia, to come out and say that he ought to vacate in a controlled process is actually almost laughable. It shows that she really actually has no desire to want to pull the levers of government to legislate for her fellow citizens. That's not an opinion. It's fact. She's using, again, that one rule that allows a single member to file that motion to vacate. And now here, even Johnson's allies, who do often side with Marjorie Taylor Greene, are saying that this is, again, a person that doesn't just...


SHAH: ...Want to be disruptive but wants to blow up the process for no good reason.

MARTIN: OK. Well, what does it say about Mike Johnson? What does it say about the speaker?

SHAH: Yeah, it says that he's taken the most principled stance, again, of his speakership. Those folks who are saying that this is the weekend in which he became speaker I believe are not wrong, because this is about governing. And when he decided earlier this past week to split this aid into three separate bills, I thought that was actually quite brilliant and showed that dedication of his to doing the right thing. And doing the right thing for him meant joining with his colleagues, who are Reagan Republicans...


SHAH: ...Who believe that America is stronger when we give to our, again, allies on the world stage, and we fight back against...


SHAH: ...Those enemies of democracy in this way.

MARTIN: OK. So a little more than a week ago, former President Donald Trump said Speaker Johnson was doing a good job when he met with him in Florida. But Trump also opposes more aid to Ukraine. How do you read that?

SHAH: Well, there's not actually much to look into there, and this is the part that I found most frustrating this past week. Sure, Speaker Johnson went down to Mar-a-Lago and kissed the ring of Trump, but not much came out of it. In fact, I'd say that Trump's influence on the speaker was overstated. And in many ways, what happened on Saturday with the votes show that Trump actually has some dwindling influence on the GOP caucus because, again, this was about Speaker Johnson choosing to go again with a camp of Republicans that sound more like Nikki Haley. He also came out again and talked about Iran, Russia and China being part of an axis...


SHAH: ...Of evil. That was something she said on the debate stage this past fall.

MARTIN: OK. as briefly as you can, 112 Republicans did vote against more support for Ukraine. That's a bare majority of the caucus. But what of members of Congress whose constituents don't feel good about sending aid overseas? How do they navigate this going forward?

SHAH: Well, there's really no good way, because what has happened now is that the House is acting. The House is doing something. There was months of stalled talks. And so in many ways, what you have to look and see is that the decision of this past week in the passage of these bills was purely because the speaker made a choice of what Republicans were going to be about in this election. So this is a place at which those people can say, our constituents wanted something else...


SHAH: ...But there's really not much recourse here.

MARTIN: That is political strategist Rina Shah. Rina, thank you.

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

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