Dems Help Save Johnson's Aid Package for Israel, Ukraine

Dems Help Save Johnson's Aid Package for Israel, Ukraine

Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA

The House took a significant step Friday toward passing a long-delayed $95 billion package of foreign aid bills, as Democrats provided most of the votes needed to help the legislation clear procedural hurdles and overcome the opposition of far-right Republicans.

The overwhelmingly bipartisan vote saw 165 Democrats join with 151 Republicans to clear funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Fifty-five Republicans and 39 Democrats voted against allowing the legislation to advance.

In a highly unusual move, Democrats had also helped the bills pass through the House Rules Committee in a 9-3 vote late Thursday, ensuring that Republican holdouts Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Chip Roy of Texas would not be able to block the package.

The bills are now on track for final passage in the House on Saturday afternoon. They would provide more than $60 billion for Ukraine, including about $23 billion to replenish U.S. military stockpiles and some $10 billion in direct aid for Ukraine structured as a loan that can be forgiven later; about $17 billion in weapons for Israel and just over $9 billion in humanitarian assistance; and $8.1 billion to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region.

A fourth bill includes some Republican priorities, including new sanctions, a measure that could potentially ban TikTok and a provision to allow seized Russian assets in the United States to be used to rebuild Ukraine.

Those bills, once passed, will be bundled together and sent to the Senate, which is expected to then approve the package within days, though hardliners in that chamber reportedly may seek to drag out the process.

A fifth bill set to get a vote in the House on Saturday includes strict Republican border security provisions. It is expected to fail, though, because it is being brought up under a process that requires the support of a two-thirds majority and does not have the backing of Democrats.

Passage of the foreign aid bills would represent a victory for President Joe Biden, who initially requested a supplemental spending package for Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific last October and has long urged the House to pass the aid plan. “The world is watching what the Congress does,” the White House said in a statement. “Passing this legislation would send a powerful message about the strength of American leadership at a pivotal moment.”

The expected House votes will also represent a win of sorts for Speaker Mike Johnson. Johnson had refused to allow the House to vote on a Senate-passed aid bill for two months. Then, under pressure to provide support for Israel and Ukraine — and already facing a Republican call for his ouster — he chose to bring up individual aid bills that largely mirrored the elements of the Senate plan and tack on some Republican priorities.

Johnson’s strategy, relying on Democrats, has invited the fury of isolationist, hard-right Republicans who oppose further aid for Ukraine or insist that the U.S. border crisis must be addressed before we help foreign allies. Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, announced Friday that he was signing on to the motion to oust Johnson, joining Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Massie. “With Republicans’ two-seat House margin, Gosar’s signature means the speaker could be ousted unless Democrats decide to rescue Johnson,” The Washington Post notes. Republican Rep. Eli Crane, also from Arizona, reportedly said he was “open” to the idea of removing Johnson.

The bottom line: The foreign aid package appears set to pass the House on Saturday, though the process is likely to require lawmakers to cobble together shifting bipartisan coalitions given differences in support for Ukraine and Israel. The questions then will be how quickly the Senate can act and whether Johnson will soon face — and can survive — a motion to oust him. Once the aid bill is signed into law, the Pentagon reportedly has a military aid package for Ukraine “ready to go.”