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House Republicans unveil aid bills for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan as Johnson pushes forward

Johnson unveils Ukraine, Israel aid bills
House Republicans unveil aid bills for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan 01:30

Washington — House Republican leadership on Wednesday unveiled the legislative text for three bills that are part of a complicated plan by Speaker Mike Johnson to get aid to U.S. allies while addressing concerns from conservatives.

The three bills would provide $26.4 billion to support Israel, $60.8 billion to bolster Ukraine and $8.1 billion to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, including billions for Taiwan. The Israel bill also includes more than $9.1 billion to address humanitarian needs, which Democrats said was necessary for their support. 

The fourth bill, which is set to be released later in the day, is geared toward addressing other GOP foreign policy priorities. That measure would allow the sale of frozen assets of Russian oligarchs, potentially force the sale of TikTok and authorize stricter sanctions on Russia, China and Iran. House Republicans are also expected to release a border security bill that would be considered separately.

Johnson said he would give lawmakers 72 hours to review the legislation, teeing up a vote as soon as Saturday. President Biden said he would sign it into law, calling on the House to pass it this week and the Senate to quickly follow. Both chambers are scheduled to be in recess next week. 

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, announced the proposal on Monday amid mounting pressure from members in both parties to hold a vote on a bipartisan Senate package that includes support for the U.S. allies. The $95 billion supplemental funding package that passed the Senate in February has stagnated for months in the House as Johnson has debated a path forward.

The divide over foreign aid

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Lawmakers expressed new urgency around approving the funds for Israel after it faced unprecedented airstrikes by Iran over the weekend, which came in retaliation for an Israeli strike on an Iranian consulate in Syria. And while Senate leaders and the White House had insisted that the House approving the Senate-passed package would be the most effective way to move forward, Johnson has resisted that pressure in the face of threats from the right flank of his party to oust him. 

Foreign aid has highlighted the growing divide within the Republican Party, particularly in the House, where conservatives oppose additional funding to Ukraine. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, has threatened to trigger a vote on ousting Johnson over Ukraine aid, though she said Wednesday she would not force a vote until the foreign aid bills come to the floor. Her effort lacked the public support of any of her GOP colleagues until Tuesday, when Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie signed onto the resolution to remove the speaker, known as a motion to vacate. 

Johnson said he is "not resigning," calling it "an absurd notion" that someone would bring a motion to vacate "when we are simply here trying to do our jobs."

The conservative House Freedom Caucus accused Johnson of "surrendering the last opportunity we have to combat the border crisis." 

A few conservatives, including Massie, met with Johnson on Wednesday afternoon after the legislative text was released. Leaving Johnson's office, Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, indicated he would vote against it in committee if border security was not linked to Ukraine aid. 

The motion to vacate was not discussed during the meeting, Norman said. Asked whether he thinks Johnson should be ousted, Norman said he likes the speaker but he's "disappointed." 

"We'll see," he added. 

Johnson stood behind his decision Wednesday evening, telling reporters that providing Ukraine with aid was "critically important" and that he believed a majority of Republicans would support it. 

"My philosophy is, you do the right thing and you let the chips fall where they may," Johnson told reporters. "If I operated out of fear over a motion to vacate, I would never be able to do my job." 

GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado said "this could be the beginning of the end for the speaker." 

"There are members who may send him on a vacation, shall we say," Boebert said Wednesday afternoon, noting that she does not support the effort to oust him. "But it's out of my hands." 

With such a narrow majority, Democrats would have to step in to save Johnson if Greene or Massie follow through with forcing a vote. Republicans can afford to lose just two votes if all members are present and voting. After Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin resigns, Republicans can spare a single vote. But Gallagher, who was set to step down Friday, may postpone his departure so that he can vote for the foreign aid package. An aide to Gallagher said Wednesday he "has the flexibility to stay and support the aid package on Saturday."

Democrats kept the door open to backing Johnson's plan, as long as it included aid to the three U.S. allies and humanitarian assistance. House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar of California said Tuesday they were "more concerned about the substance" of the legislation "than we are the process." 

"If Speaker Johnson's version is missing one of these components, it's highly unlikely Democrats would support it," said Rep. Ted Lieu of California, the caucus' vice chair. 

House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts called Johnson's indecisiveness "a threat to global security," adding that Johnson's effort to pacify his detractors is futile. 

"How many appearances has he made saying 'I am bringing up Ukraine funding next week'? Here we are. There is no appeasing the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of this conference," Clark told reporters Wednesday. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Wednesday evening he had not read the legislation yet, because he had been occupied with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas' impeachment trial. But, he said, it appeared to be similar to the package the Senate passed two months ago. 

"I want to see the language … before making any final judgments," Schumer said. "I'd like to get it done as quickly as possible." 

Ellis Kim, Nikole Killion, Jaala Brown, Laura Garrison and Kristin Brown contributed reporting.

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