Under Pressure, Johnson Revamps Foreign Aid Package

Biden backs new plan, which still could cost speaker his job
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2024 7:30 PM CDT
Johnson Plans Vote Saturday on Revamped Foreign Aid Plan
House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks with reporters Wednesday at the Capitol.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker Mike Johnson's four-pronged foreign aid package has become five bills, and his job could depend on what happens with the reworked legislation. On Wednesday, Johnson told his Republican caucus that the House will stay in session until it votes Saturday evening on the package with stalled aid for Israel and Ukraine as its centerpiece, the New York Times reports. Success is not certain, nor is his continued tenure in the speakership. Two of Johnson's members have threatened to file a motion to vacate, which could result in his removal, if he puts aid to Ukraine to a floor vote.

Johnson became emotional Wednesday evening when asked about his decision by a reporter, per the Washington Post. "If I operated out of fear over a motion to vacate, I would never be able to do my job," Johnson said. "I can make a selfish decision and do something that's different. But I'm doing here what I believe to be the right thing," he added. Johnson will need Democrats' support to pass the bills, and he won the backing of the most influential one. President Biden strongly endorsed the package on Wednesday. "I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won't let Iran or Russia succeed," Biden said.

Here's how the bills break down:

  • Cost: The total is $95.3 billion, per the AP, same as the Senate approved in February, though the packages aren't identical; Johnson added some provisions to appeal to GOP opponents of Ukraine aid.
  • Ukraine: More than one-third of the $61 billion would go toward replenishing weapons and ammunition systems for the US military, Republicans said. And $13.8 billion would buy weapons from the US. Johnson's bill has $9 billion in forgivable loans; the president could set the terms or cancel the loans.
  • Israel: Aid to Israel and humanitarian relief to people in Gaza account for $26 billion, and $4 billion would go to restock Israel's missile defenses.
  • Indo-Pacific: About $8 billion is intended to deter China's aggression in the region.
  • Assorted: The fourth bill satisfied a Republican wish list of foreign policy priorities. The final wording wasn't released yet, per the AP.
  • The border: The fifth piece is intended to satisfy GOP demands to strengthen security at the southern US border. It might not have worked. "Every true conservative America First patriot in the House should vote against the rule for this borrowed foreign aid bill with no border security," Rep. Bob Good, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, posted on social media.
(More Mike Johnson stories.)

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