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House Speaker Mike Johnson faces a revolt from his party's right flank

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

House Speaker Mike Johnson now has President Biden's support for his plan to vote this week on foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but there is growing criticism from within Johnson's Republican Conference and the looming threat of being ousted from his post. The speaker told reporters yesterday that he's doing this because the world is on fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE JOHNSON: This is not a game. It's not a joke. We can't play politics with this. 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.

FADEL: Instead of approving the $95 billion aid bill that already passed the Senate, Johnson plans to bring four separate, but linked, measures forward with the same combined price tag, one for Ukraine, another for Israel, a third for Taiwan and other U.S. allies in the region, and a fourth that would place sanctions on Russia, Iran and China. A fifth bill on U.S.-Mexico border security measures will be considered under a separate procedural rule. Now, to get these bills through, Johnson will lean heavily on Democratic support, as well as his own party's support. To discuss Johnson's approach, we're joined by Republican Congressman Ralph Norman of South Carolina. Good morning, and thanks for being on the program.

RALPH NORMAN: Glad to be with you, Leila.

FADEL: Now, Congressman, do you support Johnson's proposal? Will you vote for these bills?

NORMAN: I will not, and here's why. You know, this supplemental security funding, roughly $95 billion, of which $26 billion goes to Israel, 63% goes to Ukraine and then the Indo-Pacific, the speaker is right in that, you know, we are considering these main measures under one rule, but the problem is, included in this one rule is not security for the border. How can we spend money we don't have, and how can we secure other nations when we're not even securing our own? That's the big difference that we have.

FADEL: Yeah. Now, Speaker Johnson, we heard him there say it's not time to play politics, with all that's going on in the world. Would you say that's what you're doing?

NORMAN: I would say it's not time to surrender the sovereignty of America that's been happening over the last 3 1/2 years. We have got a crisis on the 16 million illegals in this country, and, you know, you either stop it or take measures to stop it, and if you want to do that, include it in this - in a rule, in this one supplemental security. This is not that hard to do. Now, the argument is the Senate's not going to accept it. I'm sorry. The House has got to do its duties, and again, this is the crisis for America. And yes, Israel, we want to stand with Israel, we want to stand with Ukraine, although Ukraine, we have funded them to the tune of $100 billion to date, and the one linchpin that we have is the Senate has always wanted the Ukraine funding. That's what they have. You know, that's the main issue that they want. Well, if they want the Ukraine funding, they're going to have to put some metrics in place to secure this border for America.

FADEL: Now, two of your colleagues in the Freedom Caucus say they want to remove Johnson over this proposal. Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene has already filed a motion to remove him. We heard Speaker Johnson say he's willing to risk his job for, as he puts it, doing the right thing. Do you think he should lose his job?

NORMAN: Absolutely not. I will not support this. Look, the priorities that we're facing in America today I think outweigh, you know, the disagreements that we have with the speaker, and I'm one of them. We met with him yesterday. I like Mike Johnson. He's a principled man. He's a principled - his actions show that. We just disagree on the leverage that we have as being a member of the House, which controls the purse strings. He's basically taken Chuck Schumer's bill. Other than a few billion that he - that they had recommended for dividing up the $95 billion, it's basically a Schumer bill, and I'm just saying tie the border to it. Before any dollars go out, tie the security of America with securing the border. That's that simple.

FADEL: In the few seconds that we have left, do these very public divisions over leadership in your Congress damage the ability for the party to do things, get things done and your reputation with voters?

NORMAN: Well, you know, we're trying to do the right thing. Mike Johnson is trying to do the right thing, and we've got robust discussion, which we should have, but you're talking about the security of this country. And before - and again, we can have disagreements, and yes, it's visible to the public, as it should be, but I don't look on that as a bad thing. Again, I will not vote to throw him out of his job, and I just disagree with Marjorie and Thomas Massie on this, but it's just an honest disagreement of opinions.

FADEL: That's Republican Congressman Ralph Norman of South Carolina, a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Thank you for your time.

NORMAN: My pleasure. 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.

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