Johnson Pushes Ahead on Foreign Aid Plan, Angering Hardliners and Risking His Job

Johnson Pushes Ahead on Foreign Aid Plan, Angering Hardliners and Risking His Job


House Speaker Mike Johnson plowed ahead Wednesday with a slightly modified plan to deliver aid to Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies. In doing so, he further infuriated far-right hardliners in his own party, adding momentum to a push by some Republicans to oust him from the speakership less than six months after he won it.

Johnson and House Republican leaders unveiled the text of bills that would provide a total of $95.3 billion in foreign aid, setting up a planned series of Saturday evening votes. The legislation would provide nearly $61 billion for Ukraine, $26.4 billion for Israel and about $8 billion for Taiwan and other partners in the Indo-Pacific. Just over $23 billion of the Ukraine funding will be used to replenish U.S. weapons, stocks, and facilities.

Those aid bills will be accompanied by a fourth containing several Republican priorities, including provisions potentially requiring the sale of TikTok and directing seized Russian assets to be used for Ukraine as well as sanctions and other measures related to Russia, China and Iran.

The foreign aid components of the plan largely mirror a package passed by the Senate in February, though the new plan reportedly structures some $9.5 billion in direct aid to Ukraine as a repayable loan — albeit one that can ultimately be forgiven by the president. The plan also includes over $9 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza, the West Bank, Ukraine and other places, in accordance with Democratic demands. (You can find additional details about the aid bills in this summary from the House Appropriations Committee.)

The four bills are set to be considered under the same rule in the House and then packaged together to be sent to the Senate. A fifth bill will include what Johnson described as the “core components” of an earlier border security measure passed by House Republicans — but that bill will be considered under a separate rule and will not be packaged with the rest.

What it all means: The package overall, and Johnson’s plan to pass it, represent a significant win for President Joe Biden, who has long urged Johnson to allow a vote on the Senate-passed plan. “The House must pass the package this week, and the Senate should quickly follow,” the president said in a statement. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

The plan is also tremendously risky for Johnson, leaving the fate of the package in some doubt while also putting his job in certain peril. The House Freedom Caucus had warned earlier in the week against using Iran’s attack on Israel as an excuse to push through Ukraine aid without offsetting cuts or border security provisions. And the border bill Johnson is lumping in with the foreign aid package has done little to mollify his conservative critics, many of whom have insisted that the U.S. border crisis must be resolved before Ukraine gets more funding.

Republicans spent hours Tuesday night trying to devise a plan that would enable them to bring the aid package to the floor without having to rely on Democrats. They failed to do so. Now Democratic votes will be needed to advance and pass the aid bills — and, potentially, to help Johnson keep his job, if he wants it. That would undoubtedly leave him in a weakened position, making it even harder to manage his unruly conference.

The Freedom Caucus posted Wednesday that Johnson “is surrendering the last opportunity we have to combat the border crisis.” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the Freedom Caucus, called the border part of Johnson’s plan “a watered-down dangerous cover vote” and said he would oppose it. And Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who led the push to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy but has been supportive of Johnson, also came out against the foreign aid plan.

“We met for hours last night and proposed different paths for the speaker that would have avoided the abject surrender represented by his strategic choice here,” Gaetz told CNN. “There’s no other way to describe it. It’s surrender. It’s disappointing. I won’t support it.”

The bottom line: Military leaders and top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee have made clear the urgent need to provide aid to Ukraine. Johnson is moving to do that, but it could cost him dearly and throw the House back into chaos.