Speaker Mike Johnson got Democratic help to pass a $78 billion tax bill. He did the same on a bill that could ban TikTok. He did it on three stopgap government spending bills. And he’s about to do it again on his second federal funding deal in one month.

The Louisiana Republican is increasingly relying on Democrats to pass major legislation, a recognition that it’s nearly impossible to get his fractured two-vote majority unified on any potentially polarizing topic. The tactic has left conservatives fuming that Johnson is sidestepping a Rules Committee they control that is supposed to vet bills for the floor.

It’s also effectively put Democrats in the position of begrudging helpmates to a GOP speaker whose reign they’re eager to end in November. At times, Johnson is winning more of their votes on big bills than he is Republican ones. But many Democrats are fine with it — because they see Johnson’s dependence on them as a point of leverage that has helped them extract victories they wouldn’t have otherwise snagged.

“When we’re winning, why would we worry about them flailing?” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a Progressive Caucus chair emeritus. Referring to the funding deal that’s set to pass this week, he added that “now we’re able to get this across the finish line largely intact, with very little damage, given we’re not in charge. That’s like a double win, so I’m happy.”

Saving Johnson rather than allowing Republicans to stew in their own mess — as they did last fall, when the GOP struggled to replace its fired speaker for weeks — could prove counterproductive to Democrats’ goal of taking back the House. Even so, interviews with a dozen Democratic lawmakers from all ideological corners of the caucus reinforced that for now, the party doesn’t mind the help it’s giving Johnson.

Democrats’ willingness to lend the speaker a hand may have an expiration date, however. If Johnson puts up standalone national security funding bills using the same fast-track gambit that he’s used in the past to lean on Democratic votes, which he’s told POLITICO that he is considering, he is likely to find less reliable backup across the aisle — particularly from progressives who are leery of unrestricted aid to Israel.

And just because Democrats are abetting Johnson’s end-runs around his obstreperous right flank by supporting bills under so-called suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority of the House, that doesn’t mean they like the message it sends about government dysfunction.

“The fact that [Johnson] has to depend on us … I mean, things have to move. And so we’re not going to jam up on suspensions. But I think it’s a sad state of affairs when Congress basically runs on suspensions and nothing else,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) said in an interview.

Democrats are cautiously optimistic about their chances to take back the House this fall, though Republicans have started to sound just as positive about their own chances to keep the majority after a year of internecine squabbling that left them with paltry few accomplishments to tout to voters.

The GOP’s list of wins is about to include a government funding deal that Johnson is already selling hard, but Democrats see the very same spending bills as much more palatable than the steep cuts and conservative riders that Republicans had initially pushed for.

There was no clearer sign of Democratic comfort with the perilous House GOP majority than the good mood that took hold Wednesday morning. That was when the minority party got briefed behind closed doors by Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

“We look forward to putting up votes to pass this minibus,” Caucus Chair Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said of the spending deal in remarks to reporters, citing successes like keeping abortion-related restrictions out of the legislation.

Despite some grousing among Democrats about the gridlock of the House and the dragged-out negotiations that shaped the spending bills, they’re more than willing to help the GOP speaker pass bills they largely see as policy victories.

“That’s the world we’re living in, and that’s what it takes to get it passed. I wish it wasn’t that way, but that’s what we’re dealing with, and Democrats are contributing to the solution,” said Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii).

Some Democrats even view their votes to help Johnson pass big-ticket bills as a central element of their party’s identity — proof that they, more than Republicans, want to help government function. House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) said she believed what’s happening in the Capitol is noticed by voters back home.

“The fact that we are needed and we’ll continue to be the adults in the room to keep the focus on the American people, that’s the work we’re sent here to do and we’ll continue to do it,” Clark said.

With a final vote on the spending accord expected to bump right up against the shutdown deadline of midnight Saturday, though, some Democratic lawmakers were eager to focus on flipping the House this fall to make sure the current climate doesn’t repeat itself.

“It’s very frustrating, because people expect us to be the grown-ups in the room. But what really needs to happen is, we need to actually control the House,” said Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Yet Jayapal’s sentiment didn’t exactly rule the day. Other Democrats said voters back in their districts are probably unaware of the deeper meaning of Johnson’s reliance on them to pass bills by suspension, given the complicated precedent and congressional process that’s involved.

“I don’t think the average American is spending a lot of time thinking about suspension votes versus rule-based votes … I don’t think it’s making a big impression,” Wild said. “What is making a big impression on people is how slow things are moving, like the aid to Ukraine.”


Original story HERE