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House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance war aid to Israel this week as he attempts the difficult task of winning House approval for a national security package that would also include funding for Ukraine and allies in Asia.

Johnson, R-La., is already under immense political pressure from his fellow Republican lawmakers as he tries to shore up the Republican Party’s divided support to help Kiev defend itself against Moscow’s invasion. The Republican chairman has been sitting for two months on an additional $95 billion package that would send aid to U.S. allies, as well as provide humanitarian aid to civilians in Ukraine and Gaza and provide funding to counter U.S. weapons supplied to Taiwan to fill.

Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel early Sunday further increased pressure on Johnson, but also gave him an opportunity to underline the urgency of approving the funding.

Johnson told Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that he and Republicans “understand the need to stand with Israel” and that he would try to advance aid this week.

“The details of that package are currently being put together,” he said. “We’re looking at the options and all these additional things.”

GOP representative Mike Turner of Ohio, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Johnson has “made it clear” he sees a path for funding for Israel, Ukraine and allies in Asia to come to the House of Representatives this week .

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The speaker has expressed support for legislation that would structure some of the financing for Kiev in the form of loans, pave the way for the US to tap frozen assets of Russia’s central bank and make other policy changes. Johnson has pushed for the Biden administration to lift the pause on approving liquefied natural gas exports and has also at times demanded policy changes at the U.S. border with Mexico.

But currently, the only package with broad bipartisan support in Congress is the Senate-passed bill, which includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby called on the speaker to put that package on the floor “as soon as possible.”

“We didn’t need any reminders about what’s going on in Ukraine,” Kirby said on NBC. “But last night certainly significantly underscored the threat that Israel faces in a very, very difficult neighborhood.”

As Johnson looks for a way to boost financing for Ukraine, he has held talks with both the White House and the former president Donald Trumpthe presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

With his job under threat, Johnson traveled to Florida on Friday for an event with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club. Trump expressed support for Johnson and said he had a “very good relationship” with him.

“He and I agree 100% on these major agenda items,” Johnson said. “If you talk about aid to Ukraine, he introduced the loan-lease concept, which is very important and I think there is a lot of consensus on it.”

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But Trump, with his “America First” agenda, has inspired many Republicans to push for a more isolationist stance. Support for Ukraine has steadily declined in the roughly two years since the war began, and an issue that once enjoyed broad support has become one of Johnson’s biggest problems.

When he returns to Washington on Monday, Johnson will also face a contingent of conservatives already angry about the way he has led the House in maintaining much of the status quo, both on government spending and, more recently, in the area of ​​US government surveillance.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a right-wing Republican from Georgia, has called for Johnson’s impeachment. She left the Capitol on Friday, telling reporters that support for her efforts was growing.

While no other Republicans have openly aligned themselves with Greene, a growing number of hardline conservatives are openly disparaging Johnson and defying his leadership.

Meanwhile, senior Republican lawmakers who support aid to Ukraine are growing frustrated by the months-long wait to bring it to the House floor. Kiev’s troops are running low on ammunition and Russia is growing increasingly emboldened as it looks to gain ground in a spring and summer offensive. A massive missile and drone attack destroyed one of Ukraine’s largest power plants and damaged others last week.

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“Russia is starting to gain ground. Ukraine is beginning to lose the ability to defend itself,” Turner said. “The United States must stand up and provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs.”

The divisive dynamic has forced Johnson to try to put together a package that delivers some policy gains for Republicans while keeping Democrats on board. However, Democrats have repeatedly called on the speaker to set aside the $95 billion package passed by the Senate in February.

While progressive Democrats have resisted supporting the aid to Israel over concerns that it would bolster the campaign in Gaza that has killed thousands of civilians, most Democrats in the House of Representatives support the Senate aid package .

“The reason why the Senate bill is the only bill is because of the urgency,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week. “We pass the bill in the Senate, it goes straight to the president’s desk and you get immediate aid to Ukraine. That is the only option.”

Many Democrats have also indicated they would likely be willing to help Johnson defeat an effort to remove him from the speaker’s office if he sets aside the Senate bill.

“I’m one of those who would save him if we can do Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine and reasonable border security,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat.

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Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed.

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