Mike Johnson says he won’t resign amid right-wing backlash over foreign aid to Ukraine

A defiant House Speaker Mike Johnson, facing growing threats to his speakership, said Tuesday he is not resigning and dismissed threats to his gavel as “absurd” after a second Republican member of Congress threatened to oust Johnson for his handling of legislation to send foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel.

After Republican Rep. Thomas Massie said he would co-sponsor an effort to oust Johnson from his job and called on him to resign, the Louisiana Republican described himself as a “wartime speaker” in challenging times.

“I am not resigning,” Johnson told reporters. “And it is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs.”

Republican hardliners are growing angry at Johnson’s complex plan to advance billions of dollars in foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Massie told Republican colleagues behind closed doors Tuesday morning that he will cosponsor the motion to vacate Johnson from his position.

The comments highlight a significant escalation of the far right’s threat to Johnson’s leadership that have dogged the Louisiana Republican since Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia filed a resolution to vacate the chair last month.

Massie was booed by his Republican colleagues after he made this announcement, according to one of the sources, and then GOP Rep. Trent Kelly of Mississippi stood up and criticized Massie, saying it’s “wrong” to not back the speaker.

“I asked him to resign,” Massie told CNN after the meeting. “He said he would not. And then I said, ‘Well, you’re the one who’s going to put us into this,’ because the motion is going to get called up. OK. Does anybody doubt that? The motion will get called up, and then he’s going to lose more votes than (former House Speaker) Kevin McCarthy, and I have told him this in private, like, weeks ago.”

Massie’s comments show how Johnson would likely need to rely on Democratic votes to pass his foreign aid package – as well as potentially to save his job – as Republicans control only a razor thin majority, and efforts to send foreign aid to Ukraine have divided the GOP.

Johnson, however, disputed Tuesday that he will have to rely on Democratic support to save his job, insisting House Republicans “are going to work this out.”

The text of the plan has not been released, so House Democrats are still weighing whether to bail out Johnson – or stand up against it and pressure Republicans to instead take up the $95 billion Senate package that Johnson has sidelined for two months. House Democrats met Tuesday morning.

The first problem for Johnson: Approving the rule that governs floor debate, a procedural step that allows legislation to be passed by a majority vote. For decades, these rules have been approved along straight-party lines, but GOP divisions have derailed rules seven times this Congress and stymied its agenda.

At least one Republican – Greene – said she will vote against the rule. Several others told CNN they are still considering how they’d vote.

In making his announcement Monday, the Louisiana Republican predicted the House will vote Friday evening on the separate bills. On Tuesday, Johnson stood by that timeline, saying he aims to get his plan “on the floor by the end of the week.”

In November, the House passed a bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel, but Democrats objected to the fact that the bill did not include aid for Ukraine and would enact funding cuts to the Internal Revenue Service.

The Senate passed its bill in February – a $95.3 billion foreign aid bill with assistance for Ukraine, Israel and other priorities.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.

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