Ukraine Aid Package Clears House Hurdle; Prime Minister Hopes To See Weapons Soon

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The $60.8 billion package to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion survived a key procedural vote in the House Friday, teeing it up for final passage in the next few days.

The vote to allow the bill to the floor, over the strenuous objections of hard-line conservative House Republicans, was 316-94, with Democrats providing the majority of the support, 165 votes to Republicans’ 151.

Under a deal struck between House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Democratic leaders, Democrats are providing needed votes to move the package forward, which may put Johnson’s job in jeopardy.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has threatened to call for a vote to oust Johnson as speaker, said she had gained another ally Friday in Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.). Together with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) who has also cosponsored Greene’s motion, the trio has enough votes to boot Johnson unless he gets Democratic help.

However, Greene has yet to call for an actual vote on her ouster move, leaving the threat hanging over Johnson’s head.

Working with Democrats, though, was the only way to break the logjam over Ukraine aid, which the White House has been demanding for months, as well as two other aid packages, $26.4 billion for Israel and $8.1 billion for Taiwan and other Asian allies. Another bill would force the divestiture of TikTok’s U.S. operations to an American company.

The bills will be voted on separately Saturday in the House and then bundled together into one bill for an up-or-down vote in the Senate. The Senate is expected to clear it easily for President Joe Biden to sign it into law.

For Ukrainian leaders, the package is essential if the country is to continue the bloody fight with Russia that began in early 2022.

In February, the long-held eastern outpost of Avdiivka fell to Russia, which White House officials blamed on a shortage of frontline artillery. On April 11, a major power plant providing electricity for the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was destroyed. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said defenders knocked down seven Russian missiles aimed at the plant but did not have enough air defense missiles to prevent another four Russian bombs from hitting it.

Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister, told reporters Thursday that the White House had said more weapons could reach the country within weeks once the bill is approved.

“They promised us that support will be supplied to Ukraine immediately. So it will be weeks, not months, before it will take place. We hope it will take days, but not more than weeks,” he said.

On Capitol Hill, House lawmakers were still mulling the ramifications of Johnson’s decision to seek help from Democrats to get the aid bills across the finish line in the House.

It is rare for the minority party in the House to help on procedural votes like Friday’s, and even more uncommon for them to provide needed votes in the Rules Committee, the House committee that acts the traffic cop for what bills go to the floor and what amendments may be offered.

Yet that’s what Democrats did Thursday night, with the committee tally at 9-3, with three Republicans on the losing side.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said on social media the minority party had not helped on a rule in committee since 1995 and “the Speaker will use Minority votes to steamroll his own party.”

But other Republicans were more sympathetic toward Johnson, who has only held the gavel since October, after Republicans kicked former California representative Kevin McCarthy out of the job.

“He’s taken a lot of heat. To his credit, he stepped up to the job. Who else wanted it? I don’t see a line of people wanting to be speaker at this point,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.).

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) said he disagreed with Greene’s call for ousting Johnson.

“We should just be focused on finishing our business the rest of this year and then moving into the election season,” he said. “And then next year, we when we talk about leadership positions, then we have that conversation as a conference.”

But even as they saw the aid they have so often said is urgently needed move closer to being a reality, Democrats were hardly singing Johnson’s praises.

“The fact that he has now done it is a good thing and I applaud him for doing it,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) of Johnson.

But the delay had a cost, Hoyer said. “I certainly think that Ukraine was undermined in its ability to defend its country and to protect its people.”