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Johnson leaves uncertain plan for Israel, Ukraine aid

Republicans split over continuing support for Kyiv

By STEPHEN GROVES and LISA MASCARO, Associated Press
Published: April 15, 2024, 3:39pm
2 Photos
A Ukrainian serviceman from the Azov brigade, known by the call sign Yenot, smokes a cigarette in trenches around one kilometer away from Russian forces on the frontline in Kreminna direction, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, April 12, 2024.
A Ukrainian serviceman from the Azov brigade, known by the call sign Yenot, smokes a cigarette in trenches around one kilometer away from Russian forces on the frontline in Kreminna direction, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, April 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Mike Johnson left uncertain his plan for advancing aid for Israel and Ukraine on Monday, keeping the future of the funding in doubt as lawmakers returned to Washington for a crucial week of foreign policy work.

Iran’s missile and drone strike against Israel over the weekend put renewed pressure on House Republicans to act on a national security package that would send military support to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. But after mulling for two months how to advance such a package through the political divides in the House, Johnson has revealed little of his strategy, including whether he will try to push the funding for Israel separately or keep it packaged with the aid for the other U.S. allies.

As the House has struggled to act, conflicts around the globe have escalated. Israel’s military chief said Monday that Israel will respond to Iran’s weekend missile strike. And Ukraine’s military head over the weekend warned that the battlefield situation in the country’s east has “significantly worsened in recent days,” as warming weather has allowed Russian forces to launch a fresh offensive.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden, hosting Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala at the White House, called on the House to take up the funding package immediately. “They have to do it now,” he said.

Senior Republicans were also growing impatient after Johnson had offered them assurances that he would bring Ukraine aid to the floor. Many have expected him to make that move before the House takes a recess next week. But with no plan set, time was running short for Johnson, who is learning the job of speaker as he goes.

The speaker planned to huddle with his fellow House Republicans on Monday evening. But the meeting will be filled with lawmakers strongly opposed on Ukraine: Republican defense hawks, including the top lawmakers on national security committees, who want Johnson to finally take up the national security supplemental package as a bundle, are pitted against populist conservatives who are fiercely opposed to continued support for Kyiv’s fight at all.

Ahead of the meeting on Monday, Johnson revealed little on his decision after saying over the weekend that he would bring Israel aid to the floor this week. Johnson has expressed support for aiding Ukraine, but ignored questions from reporters on Monday about whether he would bundle funding for the two nations together. The House was also preparing this week to take up a series of bills aimed at sanctioning Iran.

“The House must rush to Israel’s aid as quickly as humanly possible, and the only way to do that is passing the Senate’s supplemental ASAP,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Meanwhile, the White House would “oppose” a standalone bill that only addresses aid for Israel, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

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