Saturday, May 18, 2024

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Mike Johnson Stands Strong: $61 Billion Ukraine Aid Bill Moves Forward Despite Far-Right Outrage

Speaker Johnson defies GOP revolt and pushes forward $61 billion aid package for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, and $8 billion for Taiwan.

Speaker Mike Johnson Ukraine
Photo: Gage Skidmore

The United States House of Representatives is on the brink of a momentous decision as Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) pushes forward with his plan to provide additional aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Indo-Pacific allies. 

The proposed legislation, divided into five separate bills, includes nearly $61 billion for Ukraine to bolster its defense against Russia’s ongoing invasion, $14 billion for Israel to support its war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas and counterattacks from Iran, and $8 billion for Taiwan. 

The fourth bill encompasses sanctions on Russia, China, and Iran, as well as measures to allow the seizure of frozen Russian central bank assets to aid Ukraine. In an attempt to appease the more conservative members of the Republican Party, Johnson has introduced a fifth bill aimed at providing further funding for security measures at the southern border with Mexico.

MTG and Massie Back Russia Over Ukraine

However, the speaker’s decision to proceed with the foreign aid package has come at a significant political risk, as the far-right flank of his party has threatened to oust him if he moves forward with the legislation. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has already filed a motion to vacate the chair, while Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has publicly expressed his support for removing Johnson from his position. The speaker’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted in October when eight House Republicans joined the Democrats in supporting a motion to vacate, ultimately leading to his removal as speaker.

“I don’t care if the speaker’s office becomes a revolving door,” Greene said Thursday. “If he wants to change the motion to vacate, he needs to come before the Republican conference that elected him and tell us of his intentions.”

Massie, who has a suspicious history of pro-Russian votes, echoed Greene’s sentiments, claiming the motion to remove Johnson “is going to get called” and that the speaker will “lose more votes than Kevin McCarthy.”

Massie has come under scrutiny for his past voting record, which has been characterized as pro-Russian. In 2022, he was one of just six House members who voted against a bill calling on the government to collect evidence related to war crimes and other atrocities committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He was also one of three members to vote against bills aimed at ending normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus and banning imports of Russian oil, coal, and gas.

Despite the looming threat to his leadership, Johnson appears unafraid and seems determined to finally push the foreign aid bills through the House. In an emotional statement to reporters, he said, “My philosophy is you do the right thing, and you let the chips fall where they may. If I operated out of fear of a motion to vacate, I would never be able to do my job.” The speaker emphasized the critical nature of the current global situation, stating, “History judges us for what we do. This is a critical time right now—a critical time on the world stage.”

Mike Johnson and the “Axis of Evil”

Speaker Johnson’s determination to provide legal aid to Ukraine stems from his belief in the intelligence briefings he has received, which suggest that Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, and Iran form an “axis of evil” that poses a significant threat to global stability. 

Johnson believes if left unchecked, Putin would continue his march through Europe, potentially targeting the Balkans next, followed by a possible showdown with Poland or another NATO ally. “To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys,” Johnson stated, revealing that his own son is set to begin his studies at the Naval Academy this fall. “This is a live-fire exercise for me, as it is for so many American families.”

The speaker emphasized that the House cannot afford to “play politics” with the aid funding and pledged to “do the right thing” by allowing every member of the House to vote according to their conscience and will. “I’m willing to take personal risk for that because we have to do the right thing, and history will judge us,” Johnson added.

The success of the aid packages hinge on securing Democratic support to offset the likely defection of far-right Republicans. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, has signaled that her party will not be “responsible for this bill failing,” suggesting Democrats will provide the necessary votes.

However, Democratic leaders have cautioned that their support is contingent on Republicans not attaching “poison pill” amendments that could undermine the legislation. “If Republicans move ahead with political amendments or measures that weaken the bill, the minority party won’t provide the votes when Johnson needs them,” said several Democrats familiar with the situation.

The stakes are high, both for the fate of Ukraine and for Johnson’s precarious hold on the speakership. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), a member of the GOP’s more moderate Main Street Caucus, urged his colleagues to recognize the gravity of the moment and put country over party.

“I think it’s a time where we need to look at this country as a whole and start making decisions as Americans and realize that this is a critical time in the world and that there’s many eyes on this institution,” D’Esposito said.

Ukraine Aid Package Vote Scheduled for Saturday

The vote on the foreign aid packages are scheduled for Saturday, with the Ukraine assistance bill slated to be voted on first—a concession to Democrats aimed at ensuring its passage. But the battle lines have already been drawn, with Johnson’s political future hanging in the balance as he navigates the treacherous waters of his fractured party.

As Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, ominously warned: “No Republican who is not an avowed double agent will survive politically after voting for that rule.”

The clash over Ukraine aid has highlighted the deep ideological divisions within the Republican Party, pitting those who see the moral and strategic imperative of supporting a democracy under attack against those who are beholden to the pro-Putin sentiments that have gained traction on the far-right.

For Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the proliferation of Russian propaganda within Republican ranks is a troubling phenomenon that must be confronted. “Marjorie Taylor Greene, for example, has been recycling direct Russian propaganda,” Raskin said. “Calling [Ukraine] a Nazi state is such an affront and an insult to the Ukrainian people, and it’s just a lie.”

As the House prepares to cast its votes, the world will be watching to see whether the forces of democracy and global stability can prevail. Or whether the GOP’s extremist faction will succeed in handing Vladimir Putin a major win and dealing a blow to Ukraine’s fight for freedom.

As the House prepares to vote on the foreign aid package, the political stakes could not be higher. The outcome of the vote will not only determine the future of the Ukrainian people but also the fate of Speaker Johnson’s leadership. With the threat of a motion to vacate looming, Johnson faces a critical test of his ability to navigate the complex political landscape of the House and secure the passage of legislation he believes is essential to safeguarding American interests and values abroad.