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House Republican infighting getting worse after foreign aid vote

The House came together Saturday to pass a sweeping $95 billion foreign aid package, a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation in the closely divided chamber. But the move only intensified infighting among House Republicans, who split sharply on the strategy to deliver assistance to foreign allies including Ukraine and Israel.

In social media posts and TV interviews afterward, House Republicans took aim at one another — in unusually sharp terms — over the events that led up to the vote. Ultimately, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) had to rely on a majority of Democrats to push through the most controversial piece of the package — $60 billion in aid to Ukraine for its war against Russia — in a gamble that could cost him his speakership.

“It’s my absolute honor to be in Congress, but I serve with some real scumbags,” Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Tex.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” calling out two GOP colleagues — Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Bob Good (Va.) — who have broken with Johnson and voted against other legislation proposed by the GOP majority.

Gaetz and Good have also endorsed Gonzales’s primary challenger, something Johnson has warned members against doing. Gonzales’s CNN comments prompted a third hard-line GOP colleague, Rep. Elijah Crane (Ariz.), to announce his support for Gonzales’s opponent, Brandon Herrera, a gun enthusiast with a large YouTube following.

Most House Republicans have grown weary of colleagues who consistently vote against legislation that must be addressed rather than work to seek compromise within the party. Since eight Republicans voted with all Democrats to oust then-speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), more pragmatic Republicans have become irate at the “no” bloc of the conference and encouraged GOP leadership to punish those members.

Hard-liners argue that as the majority party Republicans should push for ideological purity and take a firm stand in negotiations to exert concessions from a Democratic-led Senate and White House. But in voting against conservative measures they do not believe go far enough, other Republicans say, hard-liners are weakening Johnson’s hand in negotiations because the conference is not united around a set of demands.

The hard-line bloc has long objected to considering further Ukraine aid without legislation to secure American borders. In a nod to such demands, Johnson proposed voting on a border security bill on Saturday that largely mirrors a tough conservative proposal House Republicans passed last year. But in protest of Johnson’s foreign aid proposal, three hard-liners on the House Rules Committee — GOP Reps. Chip Roy (Tex.), Ralph Norman (S.C.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.) — prevented the bill from being considered under rules that would require only a simple majority for passage.

Other Republicans urged Johnson to still put the bill up for a vote under rules that would require two-thirds of the House for passage. The measure fell short.

“Those who voted to fund Ukraine’s borders instead of America’s KNEW for certainty that the separate (unattached to Ukraine) border security was going to die in the Senate, and are now dying for cover — so they’re casting blame,” Roy said after the vote on X. “Own it.”

Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) shot back at Roy on X, saying the “isolationist Republicans” were standing in the way of at least forcing Senate Democrats to take a politically difficult vote on border security.

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) came to Roy’s defense.

“After each sellout, once the fury of Republican voters sets in, the self-serving lies begin,” Bishop said in his own post directed at Barr.

Massie told Barr, a fellow Kentucky Republican, to “quit blaming conservatives for your votes.”

The intraparty fights have spilled over on to the campaign trail, where Gaetz has taken the lead in ignoring Johnson’s warnings and campaigning against GOP colleagues. Gaetz visited San Antonio last month to hold a rally with Herrera where he bashed Gonzales and pushed for a more aggressive GOP conference.

There is no love lost with Gonzales.

“Matt Gaetz, he paid minors to have sex with him at drug parties,” Gonzales claimed Sunday, referencing allegations against Gaetz that the Department of Justice investigated but declined to prosecute last year.

The House Ethics Committee is still investigating Gaetz, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said Sunday on X that Gonzales was “laundering lies on CNN.”

Gonzales also targeted Good for his support of Herrera, apparently referencing a report by Jewish Insider that cited instances of Herrera posting videos “replete with imagery, music and jokes about the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.”

“Bob Good endorsed my opponent, a known neo-Nazi,” Gonzales said. “These people used to walk around with white hoods at night; now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime.”

After Gonzales’s CNN interview, Herrera objected to the congressman’s characterization of him as a “neo-Nazi,” writing on X: “This is the death spiral ladies and gentlemen. He has to cry to his liberal friends about me, because Republicans won’t listen anymore.”

For Johnson, the infighting looms over his fate as speaker.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) had promised to try to remove Johnson from the speakership if he moved Ukraine aid, but she held back in hopes that her colleagues hear from angry constituents before returning to Washington.

Massie, who co-sponsored Greene’s resolution to oust Johnson, said he hopes Johnson resigns and predicted that if he does not, someone could trigger a “motion to vacate” even though much of the Republican conference does not want to devolve into chaos again.

In a tense Tuesday evening meeting with Johnson and several rank-and-file Republicans, Gaetz told the speaker that if he moved ahead with his foreign aid plan that GOP colleagues would seek to oust him. He also threatened others in the room, saying the far-right bloc would target them on social media and campaign against them.

Meanwhile, some GOP critics of the hard-line faction have advocated for leadership to take harsher measures against the bloc.

Last week during a meeting with the speaker and lawmakers of the conservative Main Street Caucus, who prioritize governing, conversations revolved around how to punish members based on what could improve House functions. Several members suggested removing the three hard-liners — Roy, Massie and Norman — who sit on the House Rules Committee.

Johnson did not announce any decision whether on whether to follow through with that proposed plan., which many members from that meeting acknowledged is easier said than done since far-right members fundraise successfully off being targeted by “the establishment.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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