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Mike Johnson takes risk on separating Israel and Ukraine aid

Johnson looks to advance foreign aid bill
Speaker Johnson looks to advance foreign aid bill in wake of Iran's attack on Israel 03:39

Washington — House Speaker Mike Johnson on Monday unveiled a proposal for sending wartime aid to Israel and Ukraine as he seeks to fend off a right-wing revolt that could put his leadership in peril. 

The Louisiana Republican said he plans to put four separate bills on the floor, separating aid for Israel with assistance for Ukraine, which has faced fierce pushback among some members of his conference. A third measure includes aid for Taiwan and the final bill addresses other Republican foreign policy demands. 

"We won't be voting on the Senate supplemental in its current form, but we will vote on each of these measures separately in four different pieces," Johnson told reporters after meeting with House Republicans. 

The speaker said he hoped the bills' text would be released Tuesday, and he'd then honor a 72-hour rule that gives lawmakers time to read legislation before a vote and allow amendments. If the measures survive the House Rules Committee, votes could take place as soon as Friday.

Johnson said they're still discussing whether to then merge the individual bills into one package before sending it to the Senate for approval, though his preference is to send them individually. The speaker called President Biden to tell him about his plan to split up the funding on Monday, a White House official confirmed to CBS News. 

Johnson has resisted pressure from defense hawks in both parties to bring up a $95 billion package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that passed the Senate in February with bipartisan support. Johnson has struggled to find a path forward amid fractures among Republicans and Democrats over emergency assistance to Ukraine and Israel. But Iran's drone-and-missile attack over the weekend on Israel, which came in retaliation for a strike on an Iranian consulate in Syria earlier this month, increased the pressure on Johnson to hold a vote on the Senate bill this week. Proponents of the Senate bill believe it has enough support to pass the House.

Putting Ukraine aid up for a vote carries the threat of ending his six-month tenure as speaker that has been defined by GOP infighting that has thrown the lower chamber into dysfunction. House Republicans' narrow majority has forced Johnson to repeatedly rely on Democrats to pass major legislation, much to the chagrin of some conservatives. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, has threatened to trigger a vote on ousting Johnson if he moves ahead with an aid package for Ukraine. 

Greene called the proposal "another wrong direction" for Johnson, but said she hadn't decided on whether she'd move ahead in trying to oust him. 

"I am firmly against the plan as it stands right now," Greene said after Monday's conference meeting. "This is such a scam." 

When asked whether he could survive a vote to remove him, Johnson said, "I don't spend my time worrying about motions to vacate. We're trying to govern here, and we're going to do our job. I'm not sure how that shakes out." 

Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, who leads the Republican Study Committee, endorsed the plan, saying Johnson "is doing the right thing." 

Earlier Monday, the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which supports aid to Israel, warned Johnson against 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." 

While splitting the aid into individual bills may appease conservatives, it also makes passage in the Senate uncertain. The White House said Monday it opposes a standalone Israel bill.  

"Wow, that sounds complicated," Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri told reporters when told of Johnson's proposal. 

Meanwhile, some progressives oppose sending additional aid to Israel over its handling of the war in Gaza. A recent Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers for the World Central Kitchen could harden Democratic resistance. 

While he's put off consideration for Ukraine aid, Johnson has brought up Israel aid. In November, the House passed $14.3 billion in funding for Israel that would have been paid for by cutting the same amount in funding to the IRS. The legislation never received a vote in the Senate because of Democratic opposition to the IRS cuts. Another vote in February on a standalone bill failed to meet the two-thirds threshold needed for passage. 

Lawmakers have also tried to bypass Johnson and force a vote on foreign aid. House Democrats tried to use a rarely successful legislative maneuver known as a discharge petition to force a vote on the Senate bill, but have so far fallen short of the 218 signatures needed. A competing effort from a bipartisan group of House members, which would force a vote on a smaller foreign aid bill, has far fewer backers. 

Scott MacFarlane, Sara Cook and Alejandro Alvarez contributed reporting. 

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