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Previous Opponent of Ukraine Assistance Aids in Advancing Aid Bill with Extensive Bipartisan Support

US President Biden (Credits:

Following the devastating Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that claimed the lives of 1,200 Israelis, President Joe Biden took to national television to appeal to Congress for $106 billion in urgent funding. This money was earmarked for bolstering security in Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan.

Despite the pressing nature of the request, Congress found itself mired in disagreement. Divisions between the two houses and political parties hindered progress. Even within the Republican Party, there was discord regarding which aspects of the funding to support. This deadlock persisted for six months, delaying much-needed assistance.

Speaker Mike Johnson (Credits: CNN)

It wasn’t until last week that a breakthrough was finally achieved. Both the House and Senate rallied behind a compromise package and forwarded it to the president for approval.

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) assumed the role of House Speaker on Oct. 25, succeeding Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Johnson, known for his isolationist stance, initially opposed much of President Biden’s foreign aid proposal. In May 2022, he was among the minority of Republicans who voted against a $40 billion military aid package for Ukraine.

What Led to Speaker Johnson’s Change of Heart?

However, Johnson demonstrated willingness to support Biden’s request for aid to Israel. He urged House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas) to introduce the measure on Nov. 1.

The following day, he brought it to the House floor, where it passed with a comfortable margin of 226-96. Despite this, the Democratic-led Senate rejected the approach of piecemeal aid allocation, opting instead to focus on Biden’s comprehensive package.

A huge hurdle in the Senate negotiations revolved around Republican insistence on linking international aid to border security enhancements.

Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) led discussions with White House officials, eventually reaching an agreement in early February. However, this progress was hampered by former President Trump’s opposition to any border-related legislation during his current term.

Consequently, the Senate rejected a bipartisan compromise on border security and instead introduced a substitute bill devoid of such provisions. Speaker Johnson denounced this move, holding the bill until last week’s breakthrough.

What prompted Speaker Johnson’s change of heart? Despite initial reluctance, he began reevaluating the necessity of aiding Ukraine, especially as its military situation deteriorated. After extensive consultations with intelligence experts and fellow Republicans, including influential figures such as Mike McCaul (R-Texas), Mike Turner (R-Ohio), and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), Johnson shifted his stance.

However, internal challenges persisted. Former Speaker McCarthy had made concessions at the beginning of the congressional term, granting more power to hard-right members and allowing motions to challenge the Speaker’s authority.

Speaker Mike Johnson (Credits: The Hill)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) threatened to employ one such motion if Ukraine aid was brought up. Additionally, three Republican members on the Rules Committee opposed any special rule facilitating Ukraine aid.

Despite these obstacles, the House Rules Committee eventually passed a rule allowing separate votes on security assistance bills for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. This paved the way for bipartisan support on the House floor. The rule allowed for the eventual consolidation of these measures into a single bill for Senate consideration.

Discussions within the Republican Conference are ongoing regarding potential changes to the vacate rule and the composition of the Rules Committee. Speaker Johnson’s leadership has been marked by his willingness to listen, learn, and adapt, earning him respect within his party. While challenges remain, his position seems more secure following recent developments.

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