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Party leaders try to break standoff over Johnson’s foreign aid package

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Party leaders are quietly negotiating how to bypass a conservative blockade and bring Speaker Mike Johnson’s four-part foreign aid package to the House floor, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

Three Republicans on the powerful Rules Committee — Reps. Chip Roy of Texas, Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Thomas Massie of Kentucky — are threatening to vote against the so-called rule as the panel meets Thursday, which would block the package before it reached the House floor if all Democrats also opposed it. Typically, the majority party is responsible for clearing the Rules Committee without help from the minority.

The panel took a break after they finished hearing from witnesses earlier in the afternoon, and members have been delayed as cross-party negotiations continue, according to the four people familiar with the conversations.

In exchange for helping circumvent the conservatives, Democrats are hoping they’ll be able to extract concessions from the other side of the aisle and are actively talking with Republicans, according to those people. But it’s not clear what, if anything, Johnson would give them for helping bring the bills to the floor. Democrats have called on him to bring Ukraine aid, in particular, to the floor for months.

“I think Democrats will act in a manner that’s incredibly united once we see the rule and see what it says,” Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), who sits on the Rules committee, told POLITICO Thursday when the meeting recessed.

She wouldn’t comment directly on whether Democrats have heard from Johnson, but added, “I hear that [Johnson] has put a lot of time and thinking into this.”

One potential item that’s off the table: changes to the process on forcing a vote to oust a speaker. Johnson said Thursday in a post on X that he doesn’t plan to endorse any changes to the GOP’s current rules governing the so-called motion to vacate, which can currently be triggered by just one member. Some conservatives had confronted Johnson Thursday, amid rumors that he might try to include a change to that threshold in the rule for the foreign aid package.