Aid bill for Ukraine and Israel is on track as the House of Representatives heads toward a vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — With rare bipartisan momentum, the House pushed forward Friday on a $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and humanitarian support as a powerful coalition of lawmakers helped it clear a procedural hurdle to reach a final vote this weekend. . Friday's vote produced a result rarely seen in the usually highly partisan House, with Democrats helping Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson's plan advance by an overwhelming 316-94 vote. Final House approval could come at the end of this week, when the package will be sent to the Senate.

It was a victory for the strategy Johnson began this week after agonizing for two months over the legislation. However, Johnson has had to spend the past 24 hours making the rounds on conservative media outlets working to salvage support for wartime funding, particularly in favor of war funding. Ukraine is facing a critical moment in its fight with Russiabut also because of his own job as efforts to remove him from the speakership increased.

“The Ukrainians are in desperate need of lethal aid right now. We cannot allow Vladimir Putin to walk through another country and take it over,” Johnson told the conservative host of Mark Levin’s show about the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine. “These are very serious matters that have global implications.”

Johnson said after the vote that although it was not “perfect legislation,” it was “the best possible product” Republicans could get given their razor-thin majority in one chamber of Congress.

After months of delay, the House acted slowly but deliberately once Johnson decided this week to move forward with a package that matched, with some modifications, what the Senate passed in February. President Joe Biden sent a Fast endorsement The House Speaker's plan was not blocked, and in a rare moment, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who opposes most foreign aid to Ukraine, blocked the House Speaker's work.

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“The world is watching what Congress does,” the White House said in a statement. “Passage of this legislation would send a strong message about the strength of American leadership at a pivotal moment.”

In an extremely rare move, members of the House Rules Committee joined forces late Thursday in a near-midnight vote, with all four Democrats lending their support to a procedural step, overriding the three hardline holdouts of the Republican majority to send the package to the House floor. The floor was up for debate by a vote of 9-3. It was an unprecedented moment in the House's memory in recent times.

Speaking with reporters, House Speaker Mike Johnson said the aid package is the product of divided government.

Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said he spoke with Johnson on Thursday evening to make sure the bill would get approval from the Rules Committee.

“It is long past time to support our Democratic allies,” Jeffries said after the vote.

“House Democrats have once again paved the way for important legislation for the American people.”

Johnson will need to rely on Democrats again on Saturday to back down from amendments offered by Republicans that could kill the package. One hawkish Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene would cut spending in Ukraine to zero.

Greene filed a “motion to remove” the House Speaker from office, attracting another supporter Friday as Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, co-sponsored the motion. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, another co-sponsor, suggested that others could follow suit before the House reconvenes next week, increasing pressure on Johnson to step down.

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Rep. Eli Crane, a hardline conservative from Arizona, said he was “open” to joining the movement to oust Johnson.

“I definitely feel like there is tension in Republican leadership,” he said.

Greene could launch a bid to oust Johnson from the House Speaker's office if she calls for a vote, similar to how Republicans ousted Kevin McCarthy from office last fall. Jeffries, the Democratic leader, remained noncommittal to helping Johnson retain the House speaker's gavel, although some Democrats have indicated they are inclined to help defeat the eviction proposal through procedural maneuvering.

With one of the narrowest House majorities in modern times, Johnson can only afford to lose one or two votes from his Republican ranks to pass any bill. This dynamic has pushed him into the arms of Democrats as he searches for the votes to pass the package.

Without his Republican majority fully supporting him, Johnson will not be able to formulate the package as ultraconservatives demand for fear of losing Democratic support. This forced him to abandon strict security measures to clamp down on immigration at the US-Mexico border.

At best, Johnson manages to split the Senate-passed version of the bill into separate parts, as is the preference among House Republicans, and the final votes will be on different measures — for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies.

The package will also include a fourth provision that includes several Republican priorities that Democrats support, or at least are willing to accept. These include proposals that would allow the United States to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine; impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, China, and criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl; And Video app TikTok will likely be banned If its China-based owner does not sell its stake within a year.

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Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the vote showed “the world that Democrats understand the world and our allies.” That we will stand by their side and make sure that we provide them with the support and assistance that they need, and that we care about humanitarian concerns.

He added that in his 26 years in the House, he had never seen one party have to help the other as Democrats did this week.

“It just shows how Republicans can't run the House and the House to get things done,” Meeks said.

Republicans, even those who supported the process, were deeply disappointed that it had come to this.

“I'm concerned,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., who voted for the procedural move but was nonetheless dismayed by the process. “This reflects the debate in the country: How much aid?”

Passage of each bill, in a vote expected on Saturday, will require Johnson to form complex bipartisan coalitions around each bill, with Democrats for example securing approval for aid to Ukraine, but some left-leaning progressives refusing to support military aid to Israel over the destruction of Gaza. However, Jeffries said a majority of Democrats will vote on Saturday in favor of aid packages for Ukraine, Israel and their allies in Asia.

The components will then be automatically put together again into a single package sent to the Senate, where hardliners there also plan to take procedural steps to block final approval.

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