Senate passage of aid to Israel, Ukraine expected this week

Congress is now poised to approve $95 billion in foreign aid that has been the focus of fierce debate for months and which could still potentially jeopardize the job of House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The U.S. Senate this week will take up legislation that was finally passed by the House over the weekend, after Johnson decided he could no longer continue trying to appease a few dozen GOP hard-liners.

As expected, Johnson needed the help of Democrats to get bills passed to provide aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, as well as a bill that seeks to force TikTok to separate from its Chinese parent company.

“I’ve done here what I believe to be the right thing and that is to let the House work its will,” Johnson said after the vote.

The bills approved by the House will be combined into one piece of legislation, to make it less difficult for the Senate to approve.

The Senate is expected to take up a procedural vote on Tuesday that will ultimately be passed and head to President Joe Biden’s desk, for his signature.

The bills include:

  • $61 billion for Ukraine, including nearly $14 billion for the purchase of weapons
  • $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian relief in Gaza
  • $8 billion for Taiwan and U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had implored the House to approve the security package that was passed by the upper chamber in February.

Still, Johnson delayed taking up the legislation, knowing that introducing aid for Ukraine was like rolling a political grenade into a meeting of his GOP conference.

‘We’ll let the chips fall where they may’

But something changed for Johnson over the past week — at least publicly.

He decided it was time to take the reins of his leadership and address the issue of aid for Ukraine head on, with his own series of bills.

“History judges us for what we do,” he said last week, while speaking in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. “This is a critical time right now.”

He then went on to speak about the need to provide Ukraine with military assistance in its fight against Russia.

“I’m doing here what I believe to be the right thing,” Johnson said. “I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed.”

That’s in direct contradiction to members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who have argued that sending billions of additional dollars to Ukraine would be a waste of money and better spent on matters in the U.S.

But Johnson made his comments personal, noting he has a son who will soon be entering the U.S. Naval Academy.

“To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine, then American boys,” he said.

Johnson sounded much more like a throwback to another era of the Republican Party, even noting that he grew up admiring the policies of former President Ronald Reagan.

Still, he is at odds with many members in his party on the issue of Ukraine. A total of 112 Republicans voted against the aid package for Ukraine on Saturday.

What’s ahead for Speaker Johnson?

Johnson’s critics charge he’s now more like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi than Ronald Reagan.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has repeatedly criticized Johnson, arguing he’s “betrayed” the Republican conference on a wide range of issues, beyond Ukraine.

She continues to hold out her threat of a motion to vacate, which could bring up a vote that could oust Johnson.

Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Paul Gosar, R-Az., have signed on to co-sponsor her motion.

A single lawmaker can bring up the motion, which is what happened when former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted last year.

While Greene has said more Republicans want to get rid of Johnson, many other GOP lawmakers have indicated they are tired of the chaos.

With the departure of Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wi., over the weekend, Johnson only has a 217-213 majority.

That means he can only afford to lose a single Republican vote on any issue he wants to pass on his own.

Some Democrats have indicated they will vote to keep Johnson as speaker, if a motion to vacate is triggered.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and other top Democrats have kept their powder dry on the issue.

But Jeffries on Friday did throw some shade at the GOP lawmakers who want to get rid of Johnson.

“‘Moscow’ Marjorie Taylor Greene, Massie and Gosar are quite a group,” he said. “And I’m sure that will play some role in our conversations.”

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Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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