Speaker Johnson’s foreign aid plan faces pushback as his leadership is questioned

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s grip on his fractious conference appears to be slipping after he unveiled a plan to bring separate bills funding aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan to the House floor—a move that has angered some far-right House Republicans.

Johnson’s risky plan led a second Republican to call for his resignation on Tuesday. At a weekly conference meeting, Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who opposes funding for Ukraine, said that he plans to co-sponsor a motion to vacate the speaker chair should Johnson move forward with the funding request, , a Georgia Republican, in calling for Johnson’s removal.

Johnson, not even six months into the job, is now facing yet another major test that promises to shape his speakership going forward: Can he move the foreign aid bills and save his job as Speaker at the same time?

“I am not resigning and it is in my view an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply trying to do our job,” Johnson told reporters on Tuesday. “We need steady leadership. We need steady hands on the wheel… I regard myself as a wartime Speaker.”

For months, Johnson has delayed taking action on the $95 billion national security supplemental passed by the Senate two months ago that would provide military assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. But Iran over the weekend launched an in retaliation for a deadly airstrike on its consulate in Syria, amplifying calls for Congress to respond quickly. And Ukraine’s military head warned over the weekend that Russia’s offensive on the eastern front has escalated “significantly” in recent days.

“We always knew this was going to be difficult for a raw speaker,” Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, tells TIME. “We don’t have unanimity on a lot of issues and, obviously, the majority is so narrow. But I think Johnson is navigating this exceptionally well. I don’t see anybody emerging as an alternative to him.”

Johnson has split the aid packages into separate bills in an attempt to address Ukraine funding, a divisive issue within his conference, while striving to mollify concerns from his far-right flank over sending large amounts of unchecked aid overseas. But his efforts have encountered some obstacles. He lacks the requisite Republican support to secure passage of the procedural vote, known as a rule, essential for considering the legislation. And some Republicans were displeased with the absence of border security measures in his plan, despite months of the party prioritizing border security discussions.

“Sometimes when you’re adding things on the wagon, you’re pushing them off the other side,” Cole says of his colleagues wanting to add border security measures to the bills. “Leadership has got to make that calculation.”

The four separate bills, which have not yet been unveiled to members, are expected to mirror the $95 billion Senate package that Johnson has sidelined—providing money for , Ukraine, Taiwan, and other allies. A fourth vote is planned on a separate measure that includes a proposal to use seized Russian assets to help pay for aid to Kyiv and forces a sale or in the U.S. After all four bills are voted on, Johnson plans to combine the bills that are passed into a single package for the Senate.

“Israel funding should not be held hostage by Ukraine funding,” Rep. Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican, wrote on X. “I supported the plans Speaker Johnson announced in conference to allow the House to vote on the various aid packages separately. But his since-announced intent to merge them together before sending them to the Senate is wrong.”

The prospect of Johnson’s ouster, should Greene and Massie proceed, threatens to exacerbate existing divisions within the fractured conference after House Republicans last year.

Cole says that most Republicans do not want to revisit the “two or three months of chaos” after McCarthy was booted from his position. “There’s not much of an appetite to do that again,” he says, emphasizing that he doesn’t think a motion to oust Johnson will succeed. “I would prefer if people didn’t make these threats, but to be fair to them, they’re operating under the rule as it exists so they have the right to do that.”

After Friday when another Republican is set to resign, Johnson can on the foreign aid bills and a motion to vacate—suggesting that Democrats could be critical to saving the Speaker’s job. Rep. Pete Aguilar, the Democratic Caucus Chairman from California, said on Tuesday that Democrats do not want to “sink” any plans that “deliver aid to our allies.”

White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday that the Biden Administration does not support a stand-alone bill. “We don’t support a stand alone bill that only funds Israel because too,” Kirby said. But he acknowledged the White House would be open to seeing what Johnson can move through his chamber. “We’re going to wait and pass judgment after we’ve had a chance to take a look closer at the Speaker’s proposal,” Kirby continued. “The important thing is that our allies like Israel and Ukraine that are under the gun, literally under the gun, get the security assistance they need as quickly as possible. So we want them to move this week.”