Ukraine, Israel Aid Back on Track as House Pushes Past Hardliners Toward Weekend Vote 

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks on Capitol Hill Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With rare bipartisan momentum, the House sidelined hard-right conservatives and prepared Friday to push a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies over a key procedural hurdle, closer to passage.

House Speaker Mike Johnson had spent the past 24 hours making the rounds on conservative media working to salvage the wartime funding — and his own job as the restless right flank threatens to oust him over the effort.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about what we’re doing here and why,” Johnson told the conservative host of The Mark Levin Show.

“Ukrainians desperately need lethal aid right now. … We cannot allow Vladimir Putin to roll through another country and take it,” he said about the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine. “These are very serious matters with global implications.”

After months of delay, the House worked slowly but deliberately once Johnson made up his mind this week to plough ahead. President Joe Biden sent a swift endorsement of the speaker’s plan and, in a rare moment, Donald Trump, the Republican presumed presidential nominee who opposes most overseas aid for Ukraine, has not derailed the speaker’s work.

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

In an extremely rare step, the members of the House Rules Committee joined forces late Thursday in a near midnight vote, the four Democrats giving their support on a procedural step, to push past the Republican majority’s three hardline holdouts to send the package to the House floor for debate on a 9-3 vote. It was a moment unseen in recent House memory.

Johnson will need to rely on Democrats again Friday to clear the next procedural vote and turn back amendments Republicans have offered that could kill the package. One from hardline Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene would reduce spending for Ukraine to zero.

Greene has filed the “motion to vacate” the speaker from office, and has drawn at least one other Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, as a co-sponsor. It could launch a bid to evict Johnson from the speaker’s office, should she call it up for a vote, much the way Republicans booted Kevin McCarthy from the position last fall.

With one of the most narrow House majorities in modern times, Johnson can only afford to lose a single vote or two from his Republican ranks to pass any bill. That dynamic has thrust him into the arms of Democrats as he searches for votes to pass the package.

Without his Republican majority fully behind him, Johnson cannot shape the package as the ultra-conservatives demand lest he lose Democratic backing. It has forced him to leave behind tough security measures to clamp down on migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and other priorities.

At best, Johnson has been able to carve up a Senate-passed version of the bill into separate parts, as is the preference among House Republicans, and the final votes will be on distinct measures — for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies.

The package would also include a fourth provision that includes many Republican priorities that Democrats endorse, or at least are willing to accept. Those include proposals that allow the U.S. to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine; impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl, and potentially ban the video app TikTok if its China-based owner doesn’t sell its stake within a year.

Passing each bill, in votes expected Saturday, will require Johnson to form complicated bipartisan coalitions on each, with Democrats for example ensuring Ukraine aid is approved, but some left-leaning progressives refusing to back military aid for Israel.

The components would then be automatically stitched back together into a single package sent to the Senate where hardliners there are also planning procedural moves to stall final approval.

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