May 20, 2024

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GOP unveils national security bill as final part of aid package for Ukraine

GOP unveils national security bill as final part of aid package for Ukraine

House GOP leaders on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping package of GOP national security priorities aimed at facilitating a massive round of new funding for Ukraine and other foreign allies in the face of fierce conservative opposition.

The bill showcases the “innovations” that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) promised when he rejected the Senate-passed foreign aid package in favor of a House version that he said would better reflect the interests and concerns of House lawmakers.

His proposal includes a provision that would ban TikTok in the United States if the company fails to separate its operations from the Chinese Communist Party, and another to impose new sanctions on Iran — an idea that has gained momentum since Tehran's strikes on Israel last weekend.

The package also includes several provisions designed to ease the financial burden on American taxpayers, provide some new aid to Ukraine in the form of a loan — although a forgivable loan — and enable the administration to tap seized Russian assets to help pay the massive costs. Reconstruction of Ukraine.

But in a departure from his initial plans, the legislation does not include a provision that would prevent President Biden's freeze on new permits for LNG exports. Johnson floated LNG allocations last month, telling Fox News in an interview: “We want to unleash American energy. We want to get natural gas exports that will help defund Vladimir Putin’s war effort there.” But the idea sparked Sharp criticism from Democrats, some of whom described it as “unsuccessful.”

During a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Johnson noted that LNG allocations had not been reduced.

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“We have tried to include it in this package and in every package, and we will continue to fight for that and continue to make the case because it is essential for our stability,” he said.

The national security legislation — dubbed the “21st Century Peace Through Strength Act” — is the fourth and final piece of the foreign aid package that the House is expected to consider, one bill at a time, on Saturday before consolidating the committee. Quartet in one piece of legislation. Package and send to the Senate. The first three bills, introduced earlier Wednesday, provide military assistance to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan.

The Israeli bill also includes nearly $9.2 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza and other global hotspots — the same number in the Senate bill and demanded by Democrats, whose support would be necessary to pass the four bills through the House.

In preparation for the bill's passage, President Biden came out strongly in favor of the four-bill package on Wednesday, even before the final proposal was officially unveiled — a reflection of the negotiations between the two parties that led up to the week's debate.

“The House must pass the package this week, and the Senate must quickly follow suit,” Biden said. He added: “I will sign this law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand by our friends, and we will not allow Iran or Russia to succeed.”

The Ukraine issue has been a massive headache for Johnson, the fledgling House speaker who has faced waves of anger from hard-line conservatives who believe he was too willing to cut bipartisan deals with Biden on key issues like federal spending and government oversight.

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The Ukraine package fits the same mold, and House conservatives wasted no time in accusing the Speaker of not fighting hard enough to secure Republican priorities in the foreign aid package, especially when it comes to security on the US southern border.

Johnson has demanded, for several months, that any new aid to Ukraine be linked to tightening security measures on the border. But while the House will vote on the border bill on Saturday, it will not be included in the four other foreign aid proposals, meaning Democratic leaders who control the Senate can ignore it — and they almost certainly will.

Conservatives are angry about this strategy, and accuse Johnson of neglecting American national security even as he seeks to secure the borders of other countries. Some are pledging to vote not only against various foreign aid bills, but also against the rule that will govern debate on these bills on the House floor.

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