NATIONAL NEWS

Johnson makes his long-awaited move on Ukraine as House plans to vote on separate aid packages

Apr 15, 2024, 6:24 PM

House Speaker Mike Johnson holds a news conference following a House GOP caucus meeting at the US C...

House Speaker Mike Johnson holds a news conference following a House GOP caucus meeting at the US Capitol on April 10, in Washington, D.C. (Samuel Corum, Getty Images via CNN )Newsource

(Samuel Corum, Getty Images via CNN )

(CNN) — Speaker Mike Johnson announced Monday evening the House will take up separate bills this week to provide aid for Israel and Ukraine, heeding demands from the far right to keep the issues separate as the threat of a vote to oust him from the speakership looms.

The long-awaited decision by Johnson marks a pivotal moment for the Louisiana Republican as he has faced intense pressure from his conference over how he would handle foreign aid to the key US allies.

Johnson predicted the House will vote Friday evening on the separate bills.

“There are precipitating events around the globe that we’re all watching very carefully,” Johnson told reporters after a GOP conference meeting Monday evening. “And we know that the world is watching us to see how we react.”

Despite the speaker’s attempt to thread the needle, however, GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who continues to dangle the threat of a vote on Johnson’s ouster, was quick to criticize the foreign aid plan.

“I am firmly against the plan as it stands right now,” Greene told reporters, though when asked whether she would force a vote on the motion to vacate as a result, she said, “I haven’t decided on that yet.”

No concerns about being voted out

Johnson dismissed concerns over a vote to oust him by his conservative flank if he moves on aid to Ukraine, telling CNN, “I don’t spend my time worrying about motions to vacate. We’re having to govern here and we’re going to do our job.”

In addition to aid for Israel and Ukraine, Johnson said in a post on X that the bills would support allies in the Indo-Pacific and there would be additional measures to “counter our adversaries and strengthen our national security.”

But Republican leaders could still take procedural steps to send all those pieces as one package to the Senate, which could enrage the right wing of the House GOP conference.

Johnson left open the possibility that the bills could ultimately be packaged together, setting up a potential fight with the right flank.

“We’re discussing whether they would be merged together in one package that’s sent to the Senate or if it goes over as individual measures,” Johnson said. “My personal preference is to do it individually, but we’ll let the body decide.”

Among the ways GOP leaders plan to address Ukraine aid: a bill to seize Russian assets, a lend-lease program for Ukraine military aid and convertible loans for humanitarian relief.

Former President Donald Trump, who recently met with House Speaker Mike Johnson at Mar-a-Lago, has expressed openness to structuring Ukraine aid as a loan.

Demands of Johnson

GOP Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma told CNN that Johnson is allowing germane amendment votes on these bills as well – a process that far right Republicans had been demanding of Johnson.

In the wake of Iran’s unprecedented retaliatory strikes on Israel, Democrats have called on Johnson to bring up a Senate-passed foreign aid package that includes aid to Israel and Ukraine, but hardline conservatives have urged the Louisiana Republican against attaching Ukraine funding to any Israel aid package – a warning that comes as the speaker faces the threat of a potential vote to oust him from his leadership post.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries urged immediate passage of the foreign aid package passed by the Senate in a new letter to colleagues.

“The gravely serious events of this past weekend in the Middle East and Eastern Europe underscore the need for Congress to act immediately. We must take up the bipartisan and comprehensive national security bill passed by the Senate forthwith,” Jeffries wrote.

In November, the House passed a bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel, but Democrats objected to the fact that the bill did not include aid to Ukraine and would enact funding cuts to the Internal Revenue Service.

The Senate passed its bill in February – a $95.3 billion foreign aid bill with assistance for Ukraine, Israel and other priorities.

Opposed to further aid to Ukraine

A significant number of House Republicans are opposed to sending further aid to Ukraine. Now, Johnson faces the most significant threat to his speakership to date after GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is among those who oppose additional Ukraine aid, filed a motion against him that could be used to force a vote on his ouster.

Greene told CNN on Monday that Trump’s backing of Johnson during a Friday press conference will not deter her from moving to oust the speaker.

“No, no, and as a matter of fact, there’s more people that are probably going to be angry from whatever happens this week,” she said.

Later, Greene said, “He’s definitely not going to be speaker next Congress if we’re lucky enough to have a majority. I think that is a widely held belief throughout the Congress.”

Asked if she thinks he’ll remain speaker for the remainder of the current session of Congress, the congresswoman said, “That is to be determined. Like I said, I’m still processing.”

Johnson called Greene’s decision to file the motion to vacate a “distraction” during an interview on Fox News.

“That’s a distraction. What Marjorie has done with the motion to vacate is not helpful for our party, for our mission to save the country, because if we don’t grow the House majority, keep the House majority, win the Senate and win back the White House for President Trump, we’re going to lose the republic,” he said.

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Johnson makes his long-awaited move on Ukraine as House plans to vote on separate aid packages