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Speaker Johnson Wants to Pass Bill Sending Billions in Arms to Ukraine and Israel

by | Mar 28, 2024

Speaker Johnson Wants to Pass Bill Sending Billions in Arms to Ukraine and Israel

by | Mar 28, 2024

House Speaker Mike Johnson

FILE PHOTO: US House Speaker Mike Johnson delivers remarks to lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Credit: Office of Speaker Mike Johnson)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) says he will work to pass a massive military aid bill for Ukraine and Israel once Congress returns to session next week, a move that could trigger a backlash from his party. House Democrats have vowed to shield the speaker from a GOP rebellion should he support the legislation.

Johnson has underscored the urgency of providing aid to Ukraine and Israel, declaring it a top priority upon the House’s return from Easter recess. “We’ll turn our attention to it and we won’t delay on that,” he told reporters last week.  

Sending billions more in aid to Ukraine is a volatile issue within the Republican Caucus. Johnson won his role as leader of the House, in part, because of his past votes opposing aid to Ukraine. However, since taking over as speaker, Johnson has repeatedly stated that he supports President Joe Biden’s $61 billion aid package for Kiev. 

The issue facing Johnson is how the aid to Ukraine is currently packaged. Initially, the GOP sought to include the funding in a bill that would also supply arms to Israel and Taiwan, as well as devote billions to border security. Last month, the Senate stripped the border funding and immigration reform from the legislation and passed a $95 billion foreign aid bill, including $61 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel. 

After passing the Senate over a month ago, Johnson has prevented the legislation from coming to a vote in the House. Some Republicans in the chamber say if Johnson brings the bill to the floor, they will vote to remove him as speaker. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he spoke with the speaker by phone on Thursday and pressed Johnson to pass the bill. “In this situation, quick passage of US aid to Ukraine by Congress is vital. We recognize that there are differing views in the House of Representatives on how to proceed, but the key is to keep the issue of aid to Ukraine as a unifying factor,” Zelensky wrote on X.

To overcome the threat from a small number of Republicans, Democrats in the House have hinted that they would support Johnson’s continued role as speaker if he brings the bill for a vote. “If the choice is between Ukraine aid and providing a vote to stop a motion to vacate, or no Ukraine aid, I think there’s a lot of Democrats who would be willing to assist in getting it done,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) told the Hill. 

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) is trying to force a vote on the House floor by collecting signatures for a majority of congressmen. It appears McGovern’s discharge petition is unlikely to prevail, however, as he is struggling to convince progressive Democrats to sign on over their objections to sending more weapons to Israel amid the brutal onslaught in Gaza. 

Johnson has floated the idea of breaking the deadlock by separating military aid to Israel and Ukraine into separate bulls. It is likely that a majority of members of Congress will be in favor of sending more weapons to Ukraine and Israel.

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of Antiwar.com and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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