Climate Hawks Urge Biden To Reject Latest GOP Demand For Ukraine Aid

An emerging plan from House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) would condition U.S. aid to Ukraine on more permits for liquefied natural gas exports.

WASHINGTON — Top progressives are urging President Joe Biden to stand firm and reject an emerging Republican plan that would condition U.S. assistance to Ukraine upon the Biden administration unfreezing approvals of new liquefied natural gas, or LNG, export permits, which the administration put on hold in January to the delight of environmental groups.

“The desperate attempt to force the Biden Administration to reverse its pause on new LNG exports is clearly not what is right for American families, our economy, or our fight against climate chaos and autocrats across the globe,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in a statement to HuffPost on Monday.

During an interview on Fox News over the weekend, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) suggested resuming LNG permitting would be one “innovation” Republicans would seek that would allow them to “unleash American energy [and] have national gas exports that will unfund Vladimir Putin’s war effort” in Ukraine.

Biden announced a temporary pause on approvals of new permits in January to examine their environmental impacts, citing data showing the U.S. as the number one exporter of LNG worldwide. The GOP-led House voted Feb. 15 to roll back the freeze, citing its impact on industry jobs, but the bill will face long odds once it gets to the Democratic-held Senate.

It’s not clear yet whether Democrats would agree to the GOP demand regarding LNG. Congress is on recess, and the House is expected to take up some sort of foreign assistance package when they return to Washington next week. But some progressives and environmental groups are trying to kill the idea.

“With our allies in Europe well-supplied by existing exports and the U.S. continuing to increase its LNG export capacity, now is the time to reexamine LNG’s impact on our climate and communities at home and take further climate action,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the top-ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

“The Biden administration and my Democratic colleagues must not abandon the climate and frontline communities just so Republicans can continue to line the pockets of Big Oil and Gas.”

“Speaker Johnson has backed himself into a corner, and he’s throwing out ideas to see what sticks with MAGA members in the House,” Merkley said.

“His proposal is a clear example of the backward agenda from extreme-right Republican members. They are willing to both abandon the Ukrainian people’s fight for freedom, helping Putin, and raise energy prices for the American people so Big Oil can get rich selling dirty fossil gas to countries like China.”

Stevie O’Hanlon, a spokesman for Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate group, said the Biden administration “can’t let Mike Johnson and his fossil fuel donors walk back this progress.”

“Pausing LNG exports is a popular, common-sense move. Gas companies shouldn’t be allowed to rake in billions of dollars in profit exporting gas abroad while working-class people are facing the threat of the climate crisis head-on,” O’Hanlon said.

Johnson is a staunch supporter of the oil and gas industry, which is particularly influential in his home state of Louisiana. He’s also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies.

There is bipartisan sentiment in both chambers of Congress that the House should simply take up the Senate-passed bill that bundles together military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Gaza, which Johnson hasn’t put up for vote in the House. A new spending package, if it passes in the House, would require another vote in the Senate, delaying much-needed aid to Ukraine.

“The Senate bill is bipartisan, it’s comprehensive and it’s the only viable way forward,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told reporters last month.

When asked Monday about ending the LNG pause as a condition for the aid, Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) didn’t dismiss the idea outright but told reporters on Capitol Hill that “opening up avenues like that is another delay.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also been adamant that Republicans should avoid other ideas, such as turning aid to Ukraine into a loan, as suggested by former President Donald Trump and his allies, because of the added delays to the process.

A pro-Ukraine group called Republicans for Ukraine also thinks voting on the Senate-passed bill would be better.

“Time is of the essence,” said John Conway, the group’s strategy director, in a statement to HuffPost. “Ukraine needs our help now. Whatever bill can get passed fastest, that’s what Congress should pass.”

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