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Mike Johnson takes risk on separating Israel and Ukraine aid

Washington — House Speaker Mike Johnson on Monday unveiled a proposal to send war aid to Israel and Ukraine, as he seeks to fend off a right-wing revolt that could jeopardize his leadership .

The Louisiana Republican said he plans to introduce four separate bills, separating aid to Israel from aid to Ukraine, which has faced stiff resistance from some members of his conference . A third measure includes aid to Taiwan and the final bill addresses other Republican foreign policy demands.

“We will not vote on the Senate supplemental bill in its current form, but we will vote on each of these measures separately in four different parts,” Johnson told reporters after meeting with House Republicans.

The speaker said he hoped the text of the bills would be released Tuesday, and would then follow the 72-hour rule that gives lawmakers time to read legislation before voting and allow amendments . If the measures survive the House Rules Committee, votes could take place as soon as Friday.

Johnson said they are still discussing whether to merge the individual bills into one package before sending it to the Senate for approval, although his preference is to send them individually. The speaker called President Biden to discuss his plan to share funding on Monday, a White House official confirmed to CBS News.

Johnson resisted pressure from defense hawks in both parties to discuss a A package of 95 billion dollars for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, which passed the Senate in February with bipartisan support. Johnson has struggled to find a way forward amid rifts between Republicans and Democrats over emergency aid to Ukraine and Israel. But Iran’s drone and missile attack this weekend, on Israel, in retaliation for a strike against an Iranian consulate in Syria earlier this month, increased pressure on Johnson to hold a vote on the Senate bill this week. Supporters of the Senate bill believe it has enough support to pass the House.

Putting aid to Ukraine up for a vote carries the threat of ending his six-month term as president, defined by Republican Party infighting that has plunged the lower house into dysfunction. House Republicans’ narrow majority forced Johnson to repeatedly rely on Democrats to pass major legislation, much to the chagrin of some conservatives. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, threatened to trigger a vote on ousting Johnson if he moves forward with an aid program for Ukraine.

Greene called the proposal “another misdirection” for Johnson, but said she hasn’t decided whether she will move forward with trying to oust him.

“I am strongly opposed to the plan as it currently stands,” Greene said after Monday’s conference. “It’s such a scam.”

Asked if he could survive a vote to impeach him, Johnson said, “I don’t spend my time worrying about motions to dismiss.” We are trying to govern here and we are going to do our job. I don’t know how it happens.”

Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, who heads the Republican study committee, endorsed the plan, saying Johnson is “doing the right thing.”

Earlier Monday, the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which supports aid to Israel, warned Johnson against using “the emergency in Israel as a false justification to impose aid on Ukraine without compensation and without security for our own wide open borders.”

While dividing the aid into individual bills may appease conservatives, it also makes the bill’s passage in the Senate uncertain. The White House said Monday that it opposes a standalone Israeli bill.

“Wow, that sounds complicated,” Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri told reporters when briefed on Johnson’s proposal.

Meanwhile, some progressives oppose sending additional aid to Israel because of its handling of the Gaza war. A recent Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers because the World Central Kitchen could harden democratic resistance.

While he postponed consideration of aid to Ukraine, Johnson discussed aid to Israel. In November, the House passed $14.3 billion in funding for Israel, which would have been financed by reducing the same amount of financing to the IRS. The bill never came to a vote in the Senate due to Democratic opposition to IRS cuts. Another vote in February on a stand-alone invoice failed to reach the two-thirds threshold required for passage.

Lawmakers also tried to bypass Johnson and force a vote on foreign aid. House Democrats attempted to use a rarely successful legislative maneuver known as a discharge petition aimed at forcing a vote on the Senate bill, but has so far failed to obtain the necessary 218 signatures. A competing effort of a bipartisan group of House members, which would force a vote on a more modest foreign aid bill, has far fewer supporters.

Scott MacFarlane, Sara Cook and Alejandro Alvarez contributed reporting.

News Source : www.cbsnews.com
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