Saturday, May 18, 2024

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Ukraine Wins: $95B Aid Package Approved as House Overcomes Far-Right Opposition

Bipartisan Coalition Overcomes MAGA Resistance as Ukraine Aid Package Approved in 311-112 House Vote.

Mike Johnson Ukraine
Photo: Gage Skidmore

The House of Representatives has finally approved a massive $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan after months of bitter infighting and stalemate among Republicans. This long-overdue assistance for key US allies in the fight against authoritarianism came at a pivotal moment, as Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s unprovoked invasion has reached a critical juncture.

Despite broad bipartisan backing for sustained military support to Ukraine, the Republican Party has been hamstrung by an “America First” isolationist wing beholden to former President Trump. The far-right MAGA wing attempted to obstruct a new Ukraine aid package, effectively siding with Putin’s unprovoked invasion over Kyiv’s democratic resistance. 

Ultimately, it took Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) putting his speakership on the line to get the bill passed. Defying the ultraconservative wing of his party, Johnson allowed a vote on the aid bills, declaring, “I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys.” He recognized that a Russian victory would imperil not just Ukraine’s democracy but American interests across Europe, as Putin’s forces could march into NATO nations like Poland and the Baltics.

“History judges us for what we do,” Johnson said. “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important.” The Speaker has apparently heeded the calls of his faith to stand up to Russia at this crucial juncture in the war.

Democrats Help Push Ukraine Bill Over the Goal Line

Johnson was forced to rely on Democrats to get the Ukraine package across the finish line after 112 Republicans voted against the $61 billion in military and economic assistance, as not a single Democrat voted against the Ukraine bill. As the bill passed 311-112, Democratic lawmakers waved Ukrainian flags on the House floor in solidarity while far-right Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) jeered, calling the aid a “business model built on blood and murder.”

MTG is now spearheading an effort with Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) to oust Johnson for breaking his promise not to allow a vote on aid to Ukraine without concessions on immigration. Yet earlier this year, Donald Trump himself sabotaged a bipartisan deal that packaged strict border measures and funding with assistance for Kyiv. 

“If Ukraine does not receive this support to defeat Russia’s outrageous assault, the legacy of this Congress will be the appeasement of a dictator and the destruction of an allied nation,” warned Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “Gone will be our credibility, our promise to stand up for freedom and human rights wherever they are threatened.”

Beyond Ukraine, the bills provide $26 billion in security aid to Israel, who has faced indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas militants in Gaza. Israel has also been attacked by Iran recently in retaliation for an Israeli attack on Iran’s embassy in Syria. 

The legislation also authorizes $8 billion to counter China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific by bolstering Taiwan’s defenses against a potential invasion by China. 

Importantly, the package includes provisions directing the president to seek $10 billion in repayment from Ukraine, a fiscally responsible measure included to appease moderate Republicans. It also greenlights seizing Russian sovereign assets to fund Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction, making Putin’s regime pay for its war crimes.

Other key national security elements include new sanctions on Iran’s rogue regime (a close ally of Russia) and measures to force a sale of TikTok over concerns the Chinese-owned app threatens Americans’ data privacy.

Make no mistake, this comprehensive foreign policy legislation represents a powerful rebuke of the “America First” isolationism championed by Trump and his acolytes in Congress. Their obstructionism has enabled Putin’s neo-imperialist ambitions, imperiled Israel’s security, and squandered America’s global leadership.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the Foreign Affairs chairman who pushed relentlessly for the aid, summed it up: “Our adversaries are working together to undermine Western values and demean our democracy. We cannot be afraid. Evil is on the march. History is calling and now is the time to act.”

McCaul praised Johnson for allowing a vote on the bills, saying “He’s a man of faith…he made the call” after seeking spiritual guidance. Indeed, the Speaker seems to have recognized that inaction risked appeasing dictators in the mold of Britain’s pre-WWII “policy of calculated obstructionism” as he invoked Neville Chamberlain versus Winston Churchill.

Thankfully, the isolationist right appears to be a loud minority and mainstream figures such as Speaker Mike Johnson and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seem committed to upholding traditional Republican hawkishness on foreign policy and support for NATO.

House Democrats Vow to Defend Johnson’s Speakership

Critically, Johnson received backing from across the aisle, with Democrats signaling they would defend his speakership against any motions to vacate by Greene and other far-right Republicans. As former Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, removing Johnson over a “difference of opinion” on Ukraine policy would “disregard any respect for the institution” of Congress.

The House’s decisive vote was a hard-fought triumph for progressive forces championing democracy, human rights, and Western liberal principles against the authoritarian aggression of Russia, China, Iran, and others. While the road ahead poses significant obstacles, this action reaffirmed America’s steadfast commitment to being a positive global influence. 

The vote was a clear rebuke of the rising tide of authoritarianism that threatens to undermine democratic norms and institutions worldwide. By standing firm in defense of liberal values, the House has sent a powerful message that the United States will not yield to the pressure of autocratic regimes. Although challenges remain, this victory represents a crucial step forward in the ongoing struggle to promote and protect fundamental freedoms on the international stage.