House passes foreign aid bill, sending help to Ukraine and Israel

The House passed a sweeping $95 billion package Saturday to aid foreign allies amid global threats, showcasing broad support for America’s role in the world in a risky push by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), whose far-right flank is threatening to oust him for the action.

In the vote’s immediate aftermath, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — who had pledged to eject Johnson from the speakership if he advanced Ukraine aid — did not take action. She told reporters she hopes colleagues face backlash from constituents while they’re on recess this week and consider joining the effort to oust the speaker on their return to Washington.

The Senate is expected to consider the foreign aid measures early next week, and President Biden is expected to sign the package.

In a statement after Saturday’s votes, Biden credited the House for coming together “to answer history’s call, passing urgently needed national security legislation that I have fought for months to secure.”

With chants of “Ukraine!” and blue and yellow flags waving on the House floor, all Democrats present and a minority of Republicans broke a months-long legislative logjam and approved $60 billion in aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia. The vote was 311 to 112, with all those objecting coming from the most conservative wing of the GOP conference.

The Ukraine funds come at a key juncture for the country in its war with Russia, as the Pentagon warns that without an infusion of help from the United States — the country’s biggest military benefactor — Ukraine would steadily cede more ground to Russian forces and face staggering casualties. It is also a major win for Johnson — despite the threats to his job — as he increasingly leads a coalition of more-mainstream House Republicans and Democrats in shepherding high-priority legislation to passage.

During Democrats’ Saturday meeting, one member proudly shouted that the party effectively controls the majority given that Democratic support has allowed the government to be funded and enabled a reauthorization for U.S. spy agencies to surveil foreign threats.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) came to the floor shortly before Saturday’s votes to herald the bipartisan cooperation, singling Johnson out by name.

“House Democrats have risen to the occasion, President Biden has risen to the occasion, traditional conservatives led by Speaker Mike Johnson have risen to the occasion,” Jeffries declared.

Passage of Ukraine aid is also a major rebuke to former president Donald Trump. Trump has long criticized Ukraine while repeatedly sympathizing with Russian leader Vladmir Putin, and has told advisers he would settle the war by letting Russia keep the land it has already seized. He pushed to turn the Ukraine aid into a loan, prompting Republicans to include a loan requirement in Saturday’s legislation, with some caveats.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on X that he was “grateful” to the House, “both parties, and personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track.”

Johnson, who has evolved on the issue of Ukraine, was defiant in his decision to move ahead on funding the foreign ally in a bipartisan manner even though there were “critics of the legislation.”

“It is not a perfect piece of legislation. We’re not ensured that in a time of divided government and in a time where there are lots of different opinions,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) celebrated the development, saying the chamber “finally advanced this essential investment in the strength of our alliances and partnerships, the credibility of our commitments, and the capacity of our own armed forces to defend America and deter aggression.”

The House also overwhelmingly passed $26 billion in funding for Israel and $9 billion in humanitarian aid, some of which will be allotted toward Gaza, during Saturday’s votes, days after Israel carried out a strike on Iran in retaliation for missiles and drones launched by Iran last weekend.

Twenty-one Republicans opposed the bill, joining 37 Democrats, many of whom voted against the measure even though it contained humanitarian aid for Gaza because it strips funding for a U.N. agency capable of delivering the aid into the region. The United States defunded the U.N. Relief and Works Agency after U.S. intelligence and Israel found that 12 of the agency’s 13,000 Gaza employees participated in Hamas’s cross-border attack on Oct. 7.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the aid was “much appreciated,” writing on X that it “demonstrates strong bipartisan support for Israel and defends Western civilization.”

The House also overwhelmingly approved sending $8 billion to allies in the Indo-Pacific as they face threats from China, 385 to 34. All who voted against the measure were far-right Republicans.

The House also passed a measure full of bipartisan priorities, including potentially banning TikTok, seizing Russian assets to resell to Ukraine, and putting conditions on Ukraine aid that comes in the form of a loan.

“Unlike the Senate’s blank check, the House legislation has a number of very important features. It provides for greater accountability over Ukraine aid,” Johnson said. “We gave our members a voice. We gave them a chance. We gave them a better process and ultimately a much better policy. ”

House Republicans have become increasingly wary of sending money to Ukraine, arguing that U.S. funds are better spent on domestic issues such as controlling the southern border. Johnson also advanced a harsh bill to crack down on immigration at the southern border, but it failed after three hard-line Republicans rejected a procedural motion in the House Rules Committee.

Johnson took a risk by moving forward on the aid package, aware that it could trigger Greene to expedite consideration of her motion to toss him aside. But he decided to plow ahead earlier this week regardless, noting that the U.S. faces a critical moment in history to step in and help allies fight dictatorships in an attempt to preserve democracy.

“I don’t walk around this building being worried about a motion to vacate. I have to do my job,” Johnson said after the vote. “I’ve done here what I believe to be the right thing to allow the House to work its will.”

Greene’s motion to oust Johnson this week earned the support of Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.). That is enough to oust the speaker now that Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) has resigned and the GOP majority has dwindled to one seat. That is, unless Democrats decide to ride to Johnson’s rescue, a possibility they are seriously considering because he acted on Ukraine aid.

Greene said she decided against bringing up her motion Saturday because she wants her GOP colleagues to hear from their constituents and for lawmakers to have a conversation about whether to keep Johnson once they’re back in Washington next month.

“I think every American in this country should be furious. Who’s gonna vote for these people? How can you vote for these people? They don’t serve our country,” she said of her Republican colleagues who supported Ukraine funding.

Massie said he still hopes Johnson would “announce his resignation so that we don’t go speaker-less for a period of time.” If Johnson did not, he predicted that the speaker would be ousted before the end of the year.

“He is a lame-duck speaker. We’re trying to keep the House. There’s a reason his fundraising is less than half of what Kevin McCarthy’s was … it’s because nobody wants to meet with a lame-duck speaker,” he said. “We need to have somebody in our office that could get reelected on Jan. 3, 2025. And maybe the people here don’t want to admit it, but it’s pretty darn obvious to me he’s not going to get there.”

When asked Saturday whether he believed he would still be speaker by November, Johnson simply said, “Yes.”

Jacqueline Alemany and Tobi Raji contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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