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Johnson says the House will vote on stalled aid to Israel and Ukraine

WASHINGTON – Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike JohnsonR-La., said Monday he plans to advance a long-stalled national security spending package this week to help Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies, along with a separate bill aimed at mollifying conservatives who have vehemently are opposed to supporting Ukraine. .

Johnson’s announcement, after weeks of wondering whether and how he could deliver crucial aid to Ukraine amid fierce Republican opposition, was the first concrete indication that he had chosen a path forward. It came days after Iran launched a major airstrike on Israel, intensifying calls for Congress to take swift action to pass the pending aid bill.

After a meeting in which he briefed Republican lawmakers on his plan, Johnson said he would put together a legislative package that roughly mirrors the $95 billion relief bill the Senate passed two months ago but is split into three pieces. Lawmakers would vote separately on a bill that would provide money to Israel, with one bill allocating funding to Ukraine and a third with aid to Taiwan and other allies. They would cast a fourth vote on a separate measure that includes other policies popular among Republicans.

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“We know the world is watching us to see how we respond,” Johnson told reporters. “We have terrorists and tyrants and terrible leaders around the world like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and (Chinese leader) Xi (Jinping) and in Iran, and they are watching to see if America will stand up for its allies and our interests around the world – and we will.”

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It is not clear whether the complex strategy will be successful in the House of Representatives, where Johnson has a tenuous hold on his divided conference and a narrow majority. Republicans might try to avoid bringing it up. Even if they don’t, the aid package’s success would depend on a complicated mix of bipartisan coalitions supporting different parts, given resistance among far-right Republicans to financing Ukraine and among left-wing Democrats to unfettered aid to Israel.

And the plan could jeopardize Johnson’s presidency, which is reeling under the threat of ousting him.

“I don’t spend my time worrying about motions to leave,” he told reporters Monday evening, referring to a snap vote to remove him from his leadership post. “We have to govern here and we are going to do our job.”

In a political sweetener for Republicans wary of more aid to Ukraine, Johnson said the House would also consider legislation that would require some of the funding to be repaid and some to be financed by the sale of Russian government bonds that are frozen. That package would also include a bill that could ban TikTok, which passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming support last month but has since languished in the Senate.

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Johnson and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, tried to emphasize that much of the money for Ukraine would go toward producing ammunition in the United States and replenishing U.S. military supplies.

“Those are American jobs building improved weapons and ammunition here,” Johnson said.

Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, had urged Johnson to approve the Senate-passed aid package as is. But the speaker came up with his plan after consulting with both Senate and White House leaders, suggesting it could cleanse Congress if it were able to move out of the House.

And some Republicans said breaking up the foreign aid package into separate bills was preferable to the kind of major measures the Senate had approved. Johnson said he chose this as a nod to “the will of my colleagues.”

Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, which counts as members a majority of Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives, emerged from the meeting with an early endorsement of the plan.

“I think the speaker is doing the right thing,” Hern told reporters.

In recent weeks, Johnson has repeatedly pledged publicly and privately to ensure that the House of Representatives takes action to help Ukraine. He had struggled to find a way to structure a foreign aid package that could secure a critical mass of support in the House of Representatives, despite bitter Republican opposition to sending aid to Ukraine and growing skepticism among the Democrats on unlimited military aid to Israel.

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Hanging over his head is a threat of impeachment from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who had previously promised to oust Johnson if he advanced funding for Ukraine without obtaining sweeping concessions from Democrats on border security.

Greene emerged from Monday’s closed-door briefing furious about Johnson’s plan. But she told reporters she had not yet decided whether to force another vote on the chairman’s ouster.

“This is such a scam, and people are fed up with it,” she said.

Johnson has been increasingly vocal about the urgency of sending aid to Ukraine, arguing that the United States has a role to play in pushing back the Russian invasion.

“We have had a lot of heavy burdens here in the House of Representatives in recent months,” he said Monday. “And finally we arrived at this priority. It’s a priority. I do expect that to happen this week, and then we can leave knowing that we have done our job.”

c.2024 The New York Times Company

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