Johnson Says House Will Vote on Stalled Aid to Israel and Ukraine

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on Monday said he planned this week to advance a long-stalled national security spending package to aid Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies, along with a separate bill aimed at mollifying conservatives who have been vehemently opposed to backing Ukraine.

Johnson’s announcement, coming after he has agonized for weeks over whether and how to advance an infusion of critical aid to Ukraine amid stiff Republican resistance, was the first concrete indication that he had settled on a path forward. It came days after Iran launched a large aerial attack on Israel, amplifying calls for Congress to move quickly to approve the pending aid bill.

Emerging from a meeting in which he briefed GOP lawmakers on his plan, Johnson said he would cobble together a legislative package that roughly mirrors the $95 billion aid bill the Senate passed two months ago but is broken down into three pieces. Lawmakers would vote separately on a bill providing money for Israel, one allocating funding for Ukraine and a third with aid for Taiwan and other allies. They would cast a fourth vote on a separate measure containing other policies popular among Republicans.

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“We know that the world is watching us to see how we react,” 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’re watching to see if America will stand up for its allies and our interests around the globe — and we will.”

It is not clear whether the complex strategy will be successful in the House, where Johnson has a tenuous hold on his divided conference and a bare majority. Republicans could try to block it from coming to the floor. Even if they do not, the success of the aid package would hinge on a complicated mix of bipartisan coalitions that support different pieces, given resistance among hard-right Republicans to Ukraine funding and among left-wing Democrats to unfettered aid to Israel.

And the plan could imperil Johnson’s speakership, which is teetering under a threat to oust him.

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

As a political sweetener for Republicans wary of backing more aid to Ukraine, Johnson said the House also would consider legislation that would require that some of the funding be paid back and that some be financed by selling off Russian sovereign assets that have been frozen. That package also would include a bill that could ban TikTok, which passed the House overwhelmingly with bipartisan support last month but has since languished in the Senate.

Johnson and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, sought to emphasize that much of the money for Ukraine would go toward manufacturing munitions in the United States and replenishing U.S. military stocks.

“Those are American jobs that build upgraded weapons and ammo here,” Johnson said.

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

And some Republicans said breaking the foreign aid package into separate bills was preferable to the kind of large measure the Senate had approved. Johnson said he had chosen to do so in a nod to “the will of my colleagues.”

Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, which counts a majority of House GOP lawmakers as members, 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, both publicly and privately, Johnson repeatedly vowed to ensure that the House would move to assist Ukraine. He had toiled to figure out a way to structure a foreign aid package that could secure a critical mass of support in the House in the face of bitter Republican opposition to sending aid to Ukraine and mounting skepticism among Democrats of unrestricted military aid for Israel.

Hanging over his head is a threat of ouster from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who had previously vowed to move to depose Johnson if he advanced funding for Ukraine without securing sweeping concessions from Democrats on border security.

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

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

Johnson has grown increasingly vocal about the urgency of sending aid to Ukraine, arguing that the United States has a role to play in beating back Russia’s invasion.

“We had a lot of heavy lifts here in the House in the last couple of months,” he said Monday. “And we finally got to this priority. It is a priority. I do expect that this will be done this week, and we’ll be able to leave knowing that we’ve done our job.”

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