Johnson signals he won’t put Senate supplemental on the floor despite increased pressure

April 15, 2024
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House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on Sunday did not indicate that he would put the Senate-passed supplemental package on foreign aid on the floor this week, despite mounting pressure from Democrats and some GOP lawmakers to do so after Iran’s retaliatory strike against Israel.

During an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Johnson noted that House members were pulling together details for a new package.

“We’re going to try again this week, and the details of that package are being put together right now,” he said. “We’re looking at the options and all these supplemental issues.”

The House initially passed its GOP-led Israel support package days after Johnson was elected speaker in October. The package, which paired $14.3 billion in aid to Israel with cuts to IRS funding, was deemed dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate and President Joe Biden vowed to veto it.

Then, in February, the House failed to pass a stand-alone Israel aid bill without those IRS cuts, with many Republicans voting with Democrats to defeat the effort.

That same month, the Senate passed a $95 billion national security package that included aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but Johnson rejected the deal after killing a bipartisan effort in the Senate to address security at the U.S.-Mexico border. And, under pressure from GOP hard-liners who have warned him that tying Ukraine aid to the bill could prove detrimental to his speakership, Johnson has yet to address aid to the war-town country months later.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that the “best” way to help Israel was to “pass the supplemental this week.”

“I’ve called on Speaker Johnson to do that,” he added during a New York City press conference after a phone call between Biden and the four congressional leaders, including Johnson. “There was a consensus on the phone among all the leaders that we had to help Israel and help Ukraine, and now hopefully we can work that out and get this done next week.”

The call included Biden, Johnson, Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, according to an aide for Schumer. Biden stressed the urgency of passing a foreign aid package for Israel and Ukraine and pressed Johnson to bring it up for a vote as early as this week, but it’s unclear whether the speaker will do so, an administration source familiar with the discussion said.

Asked on Sunday whether he is considering former President Donald Trump’s idea of turning Ukraine aid into a loan, Johnson touted his meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Friday, saying that they are “100% united on these big agenda items.”

“When you talk about aid to Ukraine, he’s introduced the loan lease concept, which is a really important one, I think, has a lot of consensus,” he said, adding that seizing the assets of a “corrupt Russian oligarchy” to help fund Ukrainian resistance is also among the ideas he thinks can reach consensus.

“And that’s what we’ve been working through,” he said. “We’ll send our package, we’ll put something together and send it to the Senate and get these obligations complete.”

McConnell, R-Ky., on Saturday urged Congress to pass the supplemental military aid package that has been held up for months. McConnell said the U.S. must stand with Israel after Iran launched retaliatory attacks against the country in response to the Israeli bombing of its consular building in Syria that killed two of Tehran’s top military leaders.

“We cannot hope to deter conflict without demonstrating resolve and investing seriously in American strength. The Commander-in-Chief and the Congress must discharge our fundamental duties without delay,” he said of the package that ties aid to Ukraine and Israel. “The consequences of failure are clear, devastating, and avoidable.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, on Sunday said he expects the House to pass the long-stalled supplemental military aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan this week with “overwhelming support.”

“Ukraine is beginning to lose the ability to defend itself and the United States must step up and provide Ukraine the weapons that they need,” he said during an interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

“I think we’re going to see overwhelming support for that in the House this week,” he added.

And House Majority Leader Steve Scalise indicated later Sunday night that the lower chamber will take up “several measures to demonstrate our support of Israel and take action against Iran” next week.

As of Sunday night, no votes were noticed on legislation that would provide aid to Israel. But Johnson said Sunday that Republicans will put together a foreign aid package for consideration this week. He is expected to have more details in the coming days.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he hopes the U.S. could provide aid to Ukraine and fund security at the border at the same time.

“I for one am prepared to help Ukraine, but I want to see us deal with the southern border. And that was the negotiation, that was the talk, that was the agreement. That’s what was going to happen and it didn’t happen,” he said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “What they came up with was unacceptable when it came to the border, but I remain a supporter of helping Ukraine. But I’m a big supporter and even bigger supporter of helping America as an American senator. And so I hope those two things can happen.”

Johnson, who has vowed the passage of new Ukraine aid, has come under scrutiny from members of a slim Republican majority. GOP hard-liners like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., have criticized Johnson, arguing that funding would be better allocated elsewhere.

Greene, who filed a “motion to vacate” to oust Johnson but has not acted on a vote to remove him, has argued that Congress should turn its attention and allocate funding to the southern border instead of Ukraine.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, on Sunday contended that Trump has “tremendous influence” over the GOP conference and thinks that Johnson went to Mar-a-Lago to speak with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee about the Ukraine aid package and to get him to agree that a loan program for direct government assistance would be “acceptable.”

“Remember the first lethal aid package that ever went to Ukraine, that I signed off on, $300 million, came from the Trump administration,” McCaul said during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “They don’t want to see us lose in Ukraine like we did in Afghanistan. The repercussions are long term — a weaker America, not stronger. I don’t think Trump wants to own that. I think he wants to help us get to the point where he gets in and he can finish the job.”

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times detailing his opposition to Biden’s pitch to congressional Republicans to pass the supplemental aid package, argued that passing it in its current form would weaken Israel’s defense in its war against Hamas.

“I think we should focus — I think Israel is a much closer ally, is a much more core American national security interest,” he said during a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And of course we got to focus on ourselves. That means encouraging the Ukrainians to take a defensive strategy.”

“This is really important, because you’re gonna hear a lot of calls across Washington, D.C., that we now have to pass the supplemental,” he added. “But if we pass the Ukraine and Israel supplemental and send a ton of weapons to Ukraine that the Israelis need, we’re actually weakening Israel in the name of helping them.”



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