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I find this AP report quite confusing:

Johnson resorted to moving the bill through an expedited process that requires a two-thirds majority for passage. That’s because Republicans were unlikely to even muster the simple majority needed to set the terms for the bill’s debate. Such a procedural vote is generally a routine matter, but has become problematic for the current Republican majority, which can generally afford to lose only three Republicans on party-line votes. The vote for more Israel aid was 250-180, well short of the two-thirds threshold necessary for passage.

According to Wikipedia, the current threshold for majority in the House is 218. So, if they could get 250 votes to (not) pass the bill (because of the 2/3 threshold), why could not they "muster the simple majority needed to set the terms for the bill’s debate"?

CNN's coverage of this isn't much more illuminating:

Because of resistance among members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, House Speaker Mike Johnson had been forced to bring up the bill under a procedure that requires two-thirds majority of the House to approve it.

How could (presumably) only a handful of Freedom Caucus guys "force" Johnson to seek a 2/3 majority?

FWTW, another source mentions that

Johnson told reporters he plans to bring the bill up next week under a process that requires only a simple majority.

So why couldn't he do that this week?

2 Answers 2

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"[T]he simple majority needed to set the terms for the bill’s debate" is misleading. It should have referred to a majority in the House Rules Committee rather than allowing an inference to a floor vote.

Normally, bills will first go to the Rules Committee (aka, "The Speaker's Committee") to set the terms of the debate and passage. In his effort to secure the speakership, McCarthy added some "hardliners" to the Rules Committee.

With the "hardliners" in place, it becomes more difficult to bring bills to the floor unless the "hardliners" terms are met. The debt deal was in trouble until McCarthy convinced a majority (7-6) of the Rules Committee to allow the bill to come to the floor.

In this case, Johnson likely could not find a majority in the Rules Committee, so the bill was brought directly to the floor under "suspension of the rules" which required a two-thirds vote on the floor.

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If I'm understanding this situation correctly, the main issue boils down to a matter of appearances. Had Johnson offered the bill in the conventional way it would likely never have come to an actual vote. It would have bogged down in opposition from other GOP Representatives while the body was trying to set the terms under which to debate the bill, meaning it would likely never even come to the floor. By using an expedited process Johnson made sure there was a floor vote with a minimum of acrimonious back and forth. It was (perhaps) a Hail Mary toss, hoping the bill would pick up enough Democrat support to pass, but in any case it gave the appearance of 'doing something'. Better to take the risk and have the bill fail visibly then have it fizzle out in the debate stage.

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  • TBH, based on his other comments, which predicted the bill would pass by a "wide margin", I think Johnson expected he'd get the 2/3 vote, and so possibly strengthen his hand in browbeating Biden to not veto it... because Biden said he would. Commented Feb 7 at 6:04

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