May 20, 2024

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Johnson pushes ahead with Ukraine aid bill despite pressure from hardliners

Johnson pushes ahead with Ukraine aid bill despite pressure from hardliners


Washington
CNN

House Speaker Mike Johnson announced on Wednesday that he is sticking to his plan to introduce a series of foreign aid bills, including funding for Ukraine, after facing significant pressure from hard-liners.

Johnson said in a note to members that they would vote on Saturday evening.

“After significant member feedback and discussion, the House Rules Committee will soon today publish the text of three bills that would fund U.S. national security interests and its allies in Israel, the Indo-Pacific region, and Ukraine, including a loan structure for assistance, and strengthen the strategy,” Johnson said in the memo. And accountability.”

The three-part supplemental package looks strikingly similar to the Senate bill in several key respects, including that the package includes just over $9 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza and other conflict zones around the world, which was a red line for For Democrats.

Together, the bills add up to about $95 billion in aid — the same amount included in the Senate bill — with the amendment that $10 billion of economic aid to Ukraine would come in the form of a repayable loan. This specific aid is a type of direct payment that helps the Ukrainian government continue to function during the war.

These loans come through approximately $7.9 billion in economic aid to Ukraine and another $1.6 billion in aid to Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia, requiring the president to strike an agreement with Kiev to repay the financing. The administration can cancel the debt if it chooses, according to an informed source.

The fight over the bills – and the possibility that right-wing members of the Republican Party might try to oust Johnson over them – adds to the most intense pressure the speaker has faced over his future during his short time in office. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said Tuesday he would co-sponsor Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's eviction motion, which would oust Johnson as speaker if it passes, prompting the House speaker to defiantly tell reporters he would not resign.

The loan structure around aid comes after a meeting and press conference with Johnson and former President Donald Trump. who said in February that the United States should stop providing foreign aid unless it is structured into a loan. That weekend, Johnson received Trump's full support at a perilous time during his presidency.

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Johnson announced on Monday evening that the House of Representatives would discuss two separate bills this week to provide aid to Israel and Ukraine, in response to far-right demands to keep the issues separate. But the final product is expected to be put together as one large package that will be sent to the Senate, according to sources familiar with the matter. The House could do that through an arcane procedure, something that angers the GOP's right wing but is what Democrats are insisting on as a condition of their support.

The Speaker of Parliament is facing mounting pressure to make changes to the foreign aid package proposed earlier this week – and not just from his right-wing members. While conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus have sounded the alarm over border security and foreign aid bills since the caucus met on Tuesday, the cries have now extended to the grassroots.

“Go back to Biden and Schumer and tell them he needs border security to pass foreign aid,” moderate New York Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis said Wednesday to the House Speaker. In his letter to members, Johnson said he would introduce an immigration bill similar to H.R. 2 in the House of Representatives.

A number of far-right Republicans in the House of Representatives quickly dropped the border bill that Johnson announced would be included among the foreign aid bills expected to be voted on on Saturday, dashing any hope that the border provisions would appease the right wing of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The border bill, which includes key provisions of another border package passed by the House of Representatives that remains dead in the Senate, was seen as a messaging exercise by Johnson in an attempt to placate his colleagues' border demands, and it clearly does not appear to be working.

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“You are dangerously out of step with Republicans by continuing to pass bills that depend on Democrats,” Greene, who is leading the effort to oust Johnson, said on Channel X. Everyone sees through this.

Hardline conservatives quickly raged at Johnson over his decision to go ahead with billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, warning him loudly that it could cost him his job.

An angry Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said he was “very disappointed” in the speaker and that he was “past the point of giving grace.”

“I need more time today, but this is not good,” Roy said when asked by CNN if it was time to leave his position.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz called Johnson's decision to move forward with the foreign aid bills a “surrender,” vowing to vote against the package and work hard to pressure others not to support the move. Other Republicans also expressed their anger and did not rule out voting against Johnson on procedural proposals that could turn the bill upside down.

With Republicans in control of the House by a razor-thin margin, Johnson will likely need Democrats to pass foreign aid bills — and save his job if the eviction proposal comes up.

House Democrats are waiting to carefully consider how much aid they will provide through a procedural vote on the aid package to see whether it includes a provision that is essential to them: $9 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza and other conflict zones around the world. The billions allocated for humanitarian aid include not only money for Gaza, but also money for Sudan, Haiti and other areas that Democrats were quick to point out.

During a caucus meeting on Tuesday, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told his caucus they would not accept “one penny” less in humanitarian aid.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday offered his first explicit endorsement of the plan put forward by House Speaker Mike Johnson.

“I strongly support this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, and enhance security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Biden said in a statement that Israel is facing unprecedented attacks from Iran, and Ukraine is facing ongoing bombing from Russia that has intensified significantly in the past month.

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Ukraine's battlefield situation is starting to “shift a little bit…in Russia's favor,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers Wednesday while urging passage of a supplemental aid package for Ukraine.

“In terms of, you know, what happens in the future and how long Ukraine will be able to continue its efforts, I think we're already seeing things on the battlefield starting to shift a little bit in Russia's favor,” Austin said. He told the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

However, House Democrats are divided on whether to try to rescue Johnson If an attempt is made to knock him down in the roomWith institutionalists insisting that a vote against the eviction proposal could protect the body from devolving into chaos just months before the presidential election. Meanwhile, progressive members warn that helping Johnson now could end up undermining the party with its base, which may already be less enthusiastic about showing up to the polls in November.

Democratic representatives Tom Susie Jared Moskowitz has said publicly that they would not support an attempt to oust Johnson, but other Democrats — including someone who held the same position as Johnson — are not ready to make that kind of commitment.

He added: “Let's just hope that doesn't happen, and that we can fulfill our responsibilities, protect and defend our democracy as we protect theirs.” Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi He said.

If Johnson is indeed ousted, it could plunge the House of Representatives into chaos once again, with no legislation tabled until a new speaker is elected.

This story was updated with additional developments on Wednesday.

CNN's Manu Raju contributed to this report.