Endgame Begins On Ukraine Funding Fight After White House Endorses Standalone Bills

Hardliners in House GOP will likely oppose the measure, which would be one of three country-specific aid packages.

Six months after it began in earnest, the fight on Capitol Hill over whether to send more help for Ukraine defend itself against an unprovoked invasion by Russia may finally be nearing an end.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday unveiled a bill to provide $60.8 billion in military and economic assistance to the embattled country, with an eye toward a House vote on it Saturday. The measure would be one of three aid packages; the second would be a bill to help Israel in its war with Hamas in Gaza, and the third, to help bolster the defenses of Taiwan and other allies in the Indo-Pacific region against China.

The bills, first announced Monday night but whose details were only disclosed Wednesday, may also start the clock ticking on how much longer Johnson keeps his job as speaker — a prospect the Louisianan congressman said he did not fear.

“My philosophy is you do the right thing and you let the chips fall where they may,” he told reporters Wednesday.

“To put it bluntly, I’d rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys,” Johnson added. “This is not a game. It’s not a joke.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who filed a motion to oust Johnson in March but has held off on calling for a vote on it, signaled Wednesday she was not yet ready to pull the trigger.

“We don’t want the chaos that was created the last time and we need an organized process if we do it,” Greene told reporters late in the day.

In October, after eight Republicans voted with all the Democrats to remove former California representative Kevin McCarthy from the speaker’s chair, Republicans saw the House paralyzed for three weeks as they tried unsuccessfully to agree on a successor. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who supports Greene’s effort, has said Johnson should name a date he will step down, in order to give the party time to settle on his replacement.

All three of the bills enjoy broad bipartisan support, though Republicans are expected to line up more strongly behind the Israel measure, while Democrats will provide the bulk of the votes for Ukraine.

The fight over whether to give Ukraine more aid on top of the approximately $70 billion in relief it’s gotten from the United States since Russia’s invasion in February 2022 has been going on since the fall of 2023.

At first, the White House asked for a much smaller package as part of a planned series of packages. But as the war in Ukraine became increasingly unpopular with Republican voters, congressional Republicans became more reluctant to support what had, for a few months, been a bipartisan cause.

In September, McCarthy, then still speaker, cut $6 billion in war funding from a stopgap spending bill right before the government was set to shut down. The move dared Democrats to either insist on including Ukraine funding and take the blame for shutting the government down when Republicans refused; or to acquiesce and try to get the money approved later, after Republicans demanded that the U.S. set aside no more money for Ukraine unless Congress also put new immigration restrictions in place. Democrats blinked.

In February, Senate Democrats took up the challenge of implementing border reforms and allowed a border bill negotiated by Sen. Jim Lankford (R-Okla.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to come to the floor as a bipartisan proposal. But Republicans, acting at the behest of presidential candidate Donald Trump, stalled the bill, fearing it would give Biden an election-year win.

Afterwards, the Senate passed along bipartisan lines a $95 billion aid package, which bundled together military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, along with humanitarian relief for Gaza.

The new House GOP proposal basically unbundles the elements of the Senate bill to allow them to be voted on separately and adds a fourth element in the form of a national security bill. Johnson said the unbundling will allow House members to vote their conscience on individual portions.

The White House has endorsed the three foreign aid bills. “The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow. I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Razom for Ukraine, an advocacy organization, also endorsed Johnson’s Ukraine bill. “Our message to the House today is simple ― vote yes. Ukraine doesn’t have time for Congress to waste,” said Mykola Murskyj, director of advocacy at Razom.

The three House aid bills have a few new wrinkles compared to the Senate package. It would require the non-military aid in the bill to be structured as a loan, though that loan could be forgiven in the future. It would require the administration to submit to Congress a strategy document for helping Ukraine win, complete with year-by-year estimates of the projected costs.

And it was unclear whether the bills, though they’ll be voted on separately, would be bundled together again before being sent to the Senate. That could potentially complicate matters.

But opponents of Ukraine aid were already feeling pessimistic Wednesday about their prospects.

“I don’t think we ought to be heading into November having fully capitulated on the border, shrugging and saying, ‘Oh, well, I hope Trump will save us,’ while we completely relinquish our Article 1 powers to hold this president accountable,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas.)

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, was disappointed the House would remain in session for two extra days this week to vote on the bills “to defend other nation’s borders, to borrow money we don’t have to send overseas, not to defend our borders and to do it with predominantly Democrat votes.”

“That is a major failure, a major disappointment,” he said.

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