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Ukraine aid in limbo as Congress begins two-week recess

McCaul: Johnson in a "tough spot" regarding Ukraine aid bill
Rep. Michael McCaul says Speaker Mike Johnson is in a "difficult spot" regarding Ukraine aid bill 07:19

Washington — Congress' two-week recess kicked off Monday after lawmakers resolved the government funding drama that had stretched on for months. But the fate of U.S. aid to Ukraine, which is running low on ammunition in its war with Russia, remains unsettled. 

Though the Senate last month approved a supplemental funding package that includes aid to Ukraine, along with other U.S. allies, Speaker Mike Johnson had refused to bring up the legislation for a vote in the lower chamber, saying that the House would find its own path forward.

But as the government funding fight came to a close last week, Johnson said that the House's attention would turn to supplemental issues after a shutdown threat had been averted, saying that the conference is exploring "a number of avenues" to address the aid. Then on Sunday, Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Johnson had committed to putting Ukraine aid on the House floor after Easter. 

McCaul noted on "Face the Nation" that the situation in Ukraine is "dire," stressing the urgency around approving aid. The Texas Republican said that Johnson understands the urgency as well, adding that the speaker is in a "very difficult spot," especially with a new effort that's emerged threatening his removal as speaker.  

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson makes remarks during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony to honor World War II veterans known as the Ghost Army on Thursday, March 21, 2024.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson makes remarks during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony to honor World War II veterans known as the Ghost Army on Thursday, March 21, 2024.  Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Last week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, filed a motion to vacate, the same type of maneuver that was used to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last year. Greene teased the effort to oust Johnson while expressing frustrations with the government funding package and how he'd approached it. Greene called the move a warning, and it's not yet being called up for a vote, though one could occur after the House return from recess. But so far no other House Republicans have publicly backed the effort, which House conservatives used to remove Johnson's predecessor last year.

Still, the Ukraine funding threatens to further complicate things for Johnson. Though some House Republicans support providing aid to Ukraine, others are staunchly opposed, or see domestic border security as a prerequisite for any additional help to the U.S. ally.

"I can promise you, if you put a Ukraine bill on the floor and you haven't secured the border, there's going to be a problem," Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, calling the issue "the big decision point for the speaker."

Any maneuvering of the House GOP conference is made more difficult by the dwindling size of the Republican majority. Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, announced on Friday that he will step down in April, bringing the House to a one-seat Republican majority down from a five-seat majority just six months ago.

On the other side of the aisle, allowing a vote on Ukraine aid could help secure a commitment from Democrats to oppose a motion to oust Johnson should it come up, opting to save his speakership — with a price to do so.

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's removal from the post last year, which was backed by a group of eight Republicans who joined with Democrats, led to a weeks-long process to elect a replacement that effectively shut down the House. 

"We don't need dysfunction right now," McCaul said of a possible repeat with Johnson's ouster. "And with the world on fire the way it is, we need to govern. And that is not just for Republicans, but in a bipartisan way. Get things done for the country that's in the national security interest of the United States."

The developments come as House lawmakers have launched multiple efforts to go around leadership and bring the supplemental funding package to the floor, where it's expected to garner bipartisan support. 

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