Mike Johnson faces growing pressure over Israel, Ukraine aid: "A Churchill or Chamberlain moment"

Speaker Johnson looks to advance foreign aid bill in wake of Iran's attack on Israel

Washington — Iran's large-scale attack on Israel has turned up the pressure on House Speaker Mike Johnson to hold a vote soon on a foreign aid package that also includes funding for Ukraine and Taiwan. 

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Monday criticized Johnson for failing to bring up a $95 billion package for a vote after it was approved by the Senate months ago, in February. Since then, it has languished in the House amid fractures among Republicans over aid to Ukraine. 

"The gravely serious events of this past weekend in the Middle East and Eastern Europe underscore the need for Congress to act immediately," the New York Democrat wrote in a dear colleague letter on Monday. "We must take up the bipartisan and comprehensive national security bill passed by the Senate forthwith." 

Jeffries added that "this is a Churchill or Chamberlain moment," referring to the British prime ministers during World War II. Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister from 1937-1940, is best known for the policy of appeasement that failed to stop Adolf Hitler from starting the war. 

House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts also called on Johnson to hold an immediate vote on the Senate bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, are also pushing for a House vote on the bill. 

"Enough with the delay, enough with the uncertainty, enough with promises to take action," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "I urge the House to get going today on the Senate supplemental. It's vital for the future of Israel, for the future of Ukraine and for the future of the West and democracy."

McConnell also stressed the need for action, underscoring that it's been two months since the Senate passed the bill. 

"Anyone taking the challenges we face seriously knows that these unmet needs are absolutely urgent. So, I'll once again urge our House colleagues to take up this legislation without delay," he said on the Senate floor. 

Schumer, McConnell, Johnson and Jeffries discussed foreign aid with President Biden in a phone call Sunday. Schumer said there was a "consensus that we need to aid both Israel and Ukraine." 

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, told Fox News on Sunday that the House would "try again this week" to pass wartime aid for Israel in response to Iran's drone-and-missile attack over the weekend that was in retaliation for a strike on an Iranian consulate in Syria earlier this month. But it's unclear whether that will ultimately include aid for Ukraine and Taiwan. 

"The details of that package are being put together now. We're looking at the options and all the supplemental issues," Johnson said. 

For months, the speaker has faced pressure from defense hawks in both parties to pass the foreign aid legislation to deliver on the U.S. promise to continue to assist Ukraine in its war against Russia amid repeated warnings that Kyiv is running out of ammunition. Johnson has instead considered other ways of delivering the funding, including through a loan, but has yet to unveil a plan. 

The attack on Israel has renewed urgency in getting the Senate bill over the finish line in the House, but it also threatens Johnson's leadership role as he faces pushback from the right wing of his party, who oppose sending any more aid to Ukraine. If Johnson tries to pass a standalone bill on Israel, he is likely to lose Democratic votes. 

The conservative House Freedom Caucus warned Johnson against using the situation in Israel to pass Ukraine aid. 

"The House Freedom Caucus stands unequivocally with Israel. Congress should provide aid to Israel," the group said in a statement. "Under no circumstances will the House Freedom Caucus abide using the emergency situation in Israel as a bogus justification to ram through Ukraine aid with no offset and no security for our own wide-open borders." 

White House spokesman John Kirby said the White House opposes a standalone Israel bill. 

"You got two good friends here — Israel and Ukraine — very different fights to be sure, but active fights for their sovereignty and for their safety and security," Kirby told reporters during the daily press briefing. "And time is not on anyone's side here in either case, so they need to move quickly on this, and the best way to get that aid into the hands of the IDF and into the hands of the Ukrainian soldiers is to pass that bipartisan bill that the Senate passed."

Nikole Killion and Kaia Hubbard contributed reporting. 


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