Marjorie Taylor Greene Fires Another Warning Shot at Johnson

Marjorie Taylor Greene Fires Another Warning Shot at Johnson

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Happy Tuesday! How’d your NCAA bracket work out? Hats off if you had the Huskies going all the way.

Here’s what’s going on in the fiscal arena.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Fires Another Warning Shot at Johnson

House Republican lawmakers returned from their two-week recess Tuesday and resumed their chaotic infighting right where they left off.

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who 18 days ago issued a threat to oust Mike Johnson as House speaker, renewed her call to remove the GOP leader and escalated her attacks in a scathing letter to colleagues that accused him of violating conference rules and surrendering to Democrats.

Greene argued that Johnson has abandoned the principles he laid out when he won the gavel and has broken promises to conservative voters. “Mike Johnson has unfortunately not lived up to a single one of his self-imposed tenets,” she wrote in her letter.

Greene’s five-page diatribe runs through a litany of complaints about Johnson’s actions as speaker, but much of her criticism centers on the spending packages that Johnson pushed through last month, avoiding a government shutdown and setting full-year appropriations via a process that relied on Democratic support: “Allowing us one day, rather than 72 hours, to review a 1000-plus page bill to which no amendments could be offered was not ‘ensuring total transparency, open processes, and regular order.’ Relying on majority Democrat support to pass a two-part omnibus was not ‘advancing a policy agenda supported by Conference consensus.’”

Greene also accuses Johnson of fully funding the Biden administration’s agenda, from the border to climate measures to the Justice Department and FBI, rather than fighting for Republican priorities. “As a matter of fact, there is little daylight between Nancy Pelosi’s omnibus in the 117th Congress and Mike Johnson’s omnibus in the 118th Congress,” she claimed, adding, “Mike Johnson worked with Chuck Schumer rather than with us, and gave Joe Biden and the Democrats everything they wanted—no different from how a Speaker Hakeem Jeffries would have done.”

Greene’s latest warning shot comes as returning lawmakers must contend with a packed agenda that includes a contentious reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and providing additional funding for Ukraine. Johnson has indicated that he is preparing a House alternative to a $95 billion foreign aid package passed by the Senate, which included $60 billion for Ukraine. In her letter, Greene also criticized Johnson for flip-flopping from opposing more aid to Ukraine to calling it a top priority.

Why it matters: “Ms. Greene’s letter appeared aimed largely at making the speaker squirm over the Ukraine aid bill, which he has agonized over — first refusing to take it up but more recently bowing to entreaties by Mr. Biden, Democrats, other Republicans and world leaders to do so,” Annie Karni of The New York Times says.

It’s not clear, though, when Greene might force a vote on her motion to oust Johnson, or whether she has any support from fellow Republicans in her revolt against the speaker. Members of both parties have indicated they have little appetite for another fight over the speakership, and some Democrats have indicated they may be willing to save Johnson if he moves ahead with Ukraine aid.

Johnson has tried to downplay the intraparty tensions. “I respect Marjorie. She will always have an open door to the speaker’s office. We do have honest differences on strategy sometimes but share the same conservative beliefs,” Johnson told CNN last week.

The bottom line: Johnson faces the most difficult stretch of his tenure as speaker, with a narrow and divided Republican majority, an open revolt by a right-wing firebrand and critical legislation on the agenda.

Number of the Day: $10 Trillion

Global defense spending hit a record $2.2 trillion last year, and that number is only expected to rise as countries rearm themselves amid growing tensions in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. While NATO members have been boosting their defense spending to get closer to the military alliance’s target of 2% of GDP in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some military experts think that outlays will need to rise well beyond that, closer to Cold War levels of 4% of GDP. If that were to occur, it would translate to an additional $10 trillion in military spending over the next 10 years among the Group of Seven nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.), according to calculations by Bloomberg Economics.

“The post-Cold War ‘peace dividend’ is coming to an end,” said Jennifer Welch, the chief geoeconomics analyst at Bloomberg Economics. “That’s likely to have a transformative effect on defense companies, on public finances and on financial markets.”

Although it’s too early to say how significantly the burgeoning arms buildup will affect public finances, it’s probably safe to assume that the spending will pressure already strained budgets. While many economists think increased defense spending will worsen inflation and put upward pressure on interest rates, some argue that wealthy Western governments can handle the strain. “I don’t foresee a fiscal crisis triggered by elevated defense spending,” MIT economist and former International Monetary Fund chief Simon Johnson told Bloomberg. “But I do worry about a national security crisis caused by a failure to defend your country.”

Justice Department Claws Back $1.4 Billion in Pandemic Fraud

The Justice Department’s COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force has recovered more than $1.4 billion in fraudulent payments within pandemic aid programs over the last three years, officials said Tuesday. More than 3,500 people have been charged with crimes, and the department has recorded more than 400 settlements and judgments.

Efforts to uncover the significant levels of fraud that occurred in the pandemic aid programs are ongoing. “Our work is not over,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We will continue our efforts to investigate and prosecute pandemic relief fraud and to recover the assets that have been stolen from American taxpayers.”

Also on Tuesday, a group of Senate Democrats released a bill that would boost federal efforts to crack down on fraud in pandemic aid programs. Modeled on President Biden’s proposal in his 2025 budget, the Fraud Prevention and Recovery Act would provide about $675 million to bolster defenses against identity theft and the use of stolen IDs in fraudulent claims for federal aid. The Justice Department would also receive about $550 million to beef up oversight of federal spending.

White House adviser Gene Sperling said it’s important for the Justice Department to maintain a long-term effort to investigate and prosecute the fraud that so badly marred the pandemic aid programs. "If we’re going to be committed to going after the most sophisticated criminals and criminal syndicates, who abused our system the most, you not only need a longer statute of limitations, you need to give enforcement and oversight the security to do multi-year hiring," he said, per USA Today. "Without that, we may lose people."

Food Aid Program Will Boost Fruit and Vegetables

The Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will provide more cash assistance to subsidize the purchase of fruits and vegetables, while reducing the amount available for milk and juices.

The new rules for the program, often referred to as WIC, will take effect in two years. In 2023, about 6.6 million low-income mothers and children participated in the program, receiving average monthly benefits of $56. Eligibility is limited to those with incomes equal to 185% of the poverty line, which translates to about $37,800 for a family of two, per The New York Times. Only about half of the households that qualified for assistance actually used it.

The new rules increase the monthly allotment for fruits and vegetables from $9 per child and $11 per mother to $26 per child, $47 per pregnant woman and $52 per breastfeeding mother – elevated levels that were temporarily in place during the pandemic and that reflect the most recent nutritional guidelines.

“The revisions are designed to improve the nutrition and health of the nation’s low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children by providing more healthy choices to meet their needs during critical periods of growth and development,” the USDA said in a statement.

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