US sets deadline for consideration of draft aid package to Ukraine

    WORLD  13 April 2024 - 15:13

    After months of delay, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is poised to step formally into the perilous debate over Ukraine aid — an explosive topic that carries high stakes for both the future of Kyiv’s sovereignty and the fate of Johnson’s Speakership.

    Since taking the gavel in October, Johnson has vowed to move another round of military help for Ukraine’s beleaguered forces in their fight against Russia. But the issue has taken a back seat to domestic concerns with hard deadlines, including efforts to fund the government and renew Washington’s foreign surveillance powers, The Hill reports.

    With those priorities in the rearview mirror, Johnson is now shifting gears to tackle a package of emergency foreign aid — including new assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies — that’s expected to hit the floor next week, according to sources in both parties.

    “I know there is a commitment from the Speaker to do something on Ukraine next week,” said Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

    The legislation is widely supported by lawmakers in both parties, but it comes with workplace hazards for the Speaker, who has infuriated conservatives in his GOP conference by cutting a number of deals with President Biden and risks an even fiercer revolt if he does it again on Ukraine.

    One firebrand, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), has already filed a motion to remove his gavel and is dangling it over the debate.

    On the other side of the aisle, Democrats have their own demands: Namely, they want a vote on a $95 billion Senate bill — combining aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan with humanitarian help for Gaza — which passed through the upper chamber in February with a 70-29 vote.

    “The only way we get aid to Ukraine is if the House takes up the Senate bill,” Smith said. “There may be other things, but the Senate bill needs to get a vote if Ukraine is going to get support.”

    How Johnson intends to thread the needle — securing his favored policies without suffering a job-ending backlash — is a mystery that’s swirled for months in Washington.

    Some Republicans are offering their quiet advice, saying the only way to get a bill passed through the divided House is to realize that, whatever you do, not everyone will be happy.

    “The problem is, he’s trying to thread this needle and you can’t thread the needle. The conference is too divided,” a House Republican told The Hill. “You got to pick a path and sell that… he honestly and genuinely is trying to do the right thing.”

    The Speaker is vowing to plow ahead with the politically prickly debate as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Biden administration officials and leaders around the globe sound the alarm about Ukraine’s immediate need for more military assistance.

    But how, exactly, he plans to alter the Senate bill — and whether he intends to move it as a single package or split it into pieces — remains an open question.

    Johnson has kept Washington guessing about his strategy for months, and that dynamic hasn’t changed in the final days heading into the high-stakes debate.

    “A Republican Speaker voting against warrant requirements for American citizens after this very process was blatantly abused to spy on @realDonaldTrump and his campaign is beyond the pale,” Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) wrote on X.

    Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) blamed Johnson for the failed amendment vote, writing on X that he was “the tie breaker” for the controversial provision.

    A spokesperson for Johnson, however, told The Hill that the Speaker voted early in the vote, and was not one of the final lawmakers to weigh in on the matter.

    Caliber.Az

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