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Johnson to Push for Israel, Ukraine Aid04/15 06:01

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to 
advance wartime aid for Israel this week as he attempts the difficult task of 
winning House approval for a national security package that also includes 
funding for Ukraine and allies in Asia.

   Johnson, R-La., is already under immense political pressure from his fellow 
GOP lawmakers as he tries to stretch between the Republican Party's divided 
support for helping Kyiv defend itself from Moscow's invasion. The Republican 
speaker has sat for two months on a $95 billion supplemental package that would 
send support to the U.S. allies, as well as provide humanitarian aid for 
civilians in Ukraine and Gaza and funding to replenish U.S. weapons provided to 
Taiwan.

   The attack by Iran on Israel early Sunday further ratcheted up the pressure 
on Johnson, but also gave him an opportunity to underscore the urgency of 
approving the funding.

   Johnson told Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures" that he and 
Republicans "understand the necessity of standing with Israel" and he would try 
this week to advance the aid.

   "The details of that package are being put together right now," he said. 
"We're looking at the options and all these supplemental issues."

   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a news conference also said that 
President Joe Biden held a phone call Sunday with the top Republicans and 
Democrats in the House and Senate, including Johnson. The New York Democrat 
said there was consensus "among all the leaders that we had to help Israel and 
help Ukraine, and now hopefully we can work that out and get this done next 
week."

   "It's vital for the future of Ukraine, for Israel and the West," Schumer 
said.

   The White House said Biden "discussed the urgent need for the House of 
Representatives to pass the national security supplemental as soon as possible."

   Johnson has also "made it clear" to fellow House Republicans that he will 
this week push to package together the aid for Israel, Ukraine and allies in 
Asia and pass it through the House, said GOP Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, chairman 
of the House Intelligence Committee, on NBC's "Meet the Press."

   The speaker has expressed support for legislation that would structure some 
of the funding for Kyiv as loans, pave the way for the U.S. to tap frozen 
Russian central bank assets and include other policy changes. Johnson has 
pushed for the Biden administration to lift a pause on approvals for Liquefied 
Natural Gas exports and at times has also demanded policy changes at the U.S. 
border with Mexico.

   But currently, the only package with wide bipartisan support in Congress is 
the Senate-passed bill that includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 
billion for Israel.

   White House national security spokesman John Kirby called on the speaker to 
put that package "on the floor as soon as possible."

   "We didn't need any reminders in terms of what's going on in Ukraine," Kirby 
said on NBC. "But last night certainly underscores significantly the threat 
that Israel faces in a very, very tough neighborhood."

   As Johnson searches for a way to advance the funding for Ukraine, he has 
been in conversations with both the White House and former president Donald 
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

   With his job under threat, Johnson traveled to Florida on Friday for an 
event with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club. Trump expressed support for Johnson 
and said he had a "very good relationship" with him.

   "He and I are 100% united on these big agenda items," Johnson said. "When 
you talk about aid to Ukraine, he's introduced the loan-lease concept which is 
a really important one and I think has a lot of consensus."

   But Trump, with his "America First" agenda, has inspired many Republicans to 
push for a more isolationist stance. Support for Ukraine has steadily eroded in 
the roughly two years since the war began, and a cause that once enjoyed wide 
support has become one of Johnson's toughest problems.

   When he returns to Washington on Monday, Johnson also will be facing a 
contingent of conservatives already angry with how he has led the House in 
maintaining much of the status quo both on government spending and more 
recently, a U.S. government surveillance tool.

   Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a right-wing Republican from Georgia, has 
called for Johnson's ouster. She departed the Capitol on Friday telling 
reporters that support for her effort was growing. And as Johnson on Sunday 
readied to advance the aid, Greene said on X that it was "antisemitic to make 
Israeli aid contingent" on aid for Ukraine.

   While no other Republicans have openly joined Greene in calling to oust 
Johnson, a growing number of hardline conservatives are openly disparaging 
Johnson and defying his leadership.

   Meanwhile, senior GOP lawmakers who support aid to Ukraine are growing 
frustrated with the months-long wait to bring it to the House floor. Kyiv's 
troops have been running low on ammunition and Russia is becoming emboldened as 
it looks to gain ground in a spring and summer offensive. A massive missile and 
drone attack destroyed one of Ukraine's largest power plants and damaged others 
last week.

   "What happened in Israel last night happens in Ukraine every night," said 
Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs 
Committee, on CBS's "Face the Nation."

   The divided dynamic has forced Johnson to try to stitch together a package 
that has some policy wins for Republicans while also keeping Democrats on 
board. Democrats, however, have repeatedly called on the speaker to put the $95 
billion package passed by the Senate in February on the floor.

   Although progressive Democrats have resisted supporting the aid to Israel 
over concerns it would support its campaign into Gaza that has killed thousands 
of civilians, most House Democrats have gotten behind supporting the Senate 
package.

   "The reason why the Senate bill is the only bill is because of the urgency," 
Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 
said last week. "We pass the Senate bill, it goes straight to the president's 
desk and you start getting the aid to Ukraine immediately. That's the only 
option."

   Many Democrats also have signaled they would likely be willing to help 
Johnson defeat an effort to remove him from the speaker's office if he puts the 
Senate bill on the floor.

   "I'm one of those who would save him if we can do Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine 
and some reasonable border security," said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat.

 
 
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