In Congress

House Passes Mike Johnson’s Foreign Aid Package

The House of Representatives voted to approve Republican Speaker Mike Johnson’s expansive package of foreign aid bills in a series of votes on Saturday.

A bipartisan coalition successfully pushed through Johnson’s plan to deliver $95.3 billion in aid to Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and other American allies, after a similar coalition cleared a key procedural vote on Friday. The package, which was initially four separate bills that will be wrapped into one before advancing to the Senate, includes bills that would allocate $60.8 billion in aid for Ukraine, $15 billion in military aid to Israel with an additional $9 billion for humanitarian aid, $8 billion for Taiwan and a bill with measures intended to put pressure on Iran and China, according to The New York Times.

While some of the humanitarian aid would go toward assisting Palestinians, the allegedly Hamas-linked UNWRA would be barred from receiving funding. Some provisions are included in the package to sweeten the deal for conservatives, including one that would force the Chinese-based parent company of TikTok to sell the social media platform or be banned from operating in the United States, according to the NYT.

The bill including the potential TikTok ban passed 360 to 58, the bill containing Taiwan aid passed 385 to 34, the Ukraine aid bill passed 311-112 and the bundle of Israel aid and humanitarian assistance passed 366 to 58, CNN reported.

House Republicans who opposed the bill were critical of Johnson for not tying foreign aid support to border security measures.

“You’ve heard me say that we want to pair border security with Ukraine because I think we’d get bipartisan agreement on both of those matters,” Johnson said at a press conference in November 2023. “We have obligations and we have things that we can and should do around the world, but we have to take care of our own house first. And as long as the border is wide open, we’re opening ourselves up for great threat.”

Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a prolific member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, called the apparent reversal a “surrender” and pledged to oppose the aid package. The Freedom Caucus put out a statement opposing the package before Friday’s procedural vote and voted against the bill on Saturday.

Johnson addressed the press following the passage of the bill, saying that “if we turn our backs right now, the consequence could be devastating.” He emphasized that the package of aid was not “a blank check” pointing to measures he says “provide greater accountability for Ukraine aid” and “forces an end-game strategy for the Ukraine war.”

“It’s not a perfect bill,” Johnson continued, noting that the Palestinian humanitarian aid allocations were necessary to get Democrats to support aid to Israel.

Johnson indicated that he is not concerned with the possibility of a motion to vacate.

As Johnson’s package advances to the Senate, it faces an uncertain fate. Republican Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance echoed Gaetz’s characterization of the package, calling it “a massive betrayal” due to the lack of border provisions.

Additionally, Republican Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama signed a letter opposing Johnson’s strategy of rolling the four separate aid bills into one, comparing it to tactics employed by former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, The Hill reported. It is unclear if these senators will ultimately support the package.

The Senate passed a similar aid bill in February, with 26 Republicans, two Democrats and Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders voting against it, CNN reported.

If Johnson’s foreign aid proposal passes the Senate, it is likely to become law as President Joe Biden signaled his support for the package in a statement released shortly after its passage.

“Today, members of both parties in the House voted to advance our national security interests and send a clear message about the power of American leadership on the world stage,” the president said in a statement.

“I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs.”

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Robert Schmad

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