House advances Ukraine, Israel aid as Dems help Speaker Johnson, GOP

House advances Ukraine, Israel aid as Dems help Speaker Johnson, GOP

The House advanced legislation Friday to send aid to Ukraine and other embattled U.S. allies overseas, clearing a key procedural hurdle after Democrats stepped in to back the measure — a rare move by the minority party, but one that was crucial to nudge the package forward in the face of fierce conservative opposition.

The chamber approved the foreign aid rule in a 316-94 vote, opening up debate on a quartet of bills combining military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan with humanitarian assistance to Gaza and other global war zones. The successful rule tees up final passage of all four measures, which are scheduled to hit the floor in separate votes Saturday afternoon.

The advancement brings Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) one step closer to passing an explosive foreign aid package that has been the subject of intense debate within the Capitol — and his conference — for months amid dire warnings from lawmakers, U.S. officials and foreign figures that Kyiv’s beleaguered forces need more U.S. assistance.

But the bipartisan vote is sure to land Johnson in more hot water with his right flank, which has sharply criticized the package — both for the billions of dollars in Ukraine aid and the exclusion of border security — and have long denounced the Speaker’s tendency to work with Democrats to advance key priorities including, now, foreign assistance.

Highlighting those internal tensions, three Republicans on the House Rules Committee had voted against the rule on the panel late Thursday night, and 55 conservatives voted against it again when it hit the House floor Friday morning. The House Freedom Caucus released an official position Thursday urging all Republicans to oppose the rule.

The internal opposition to what has historically been a standard procedural matter has become its own routine this Congress, as conservatives have sought to press GOP leaders to fight harder for Republican priorities — the dynamic that led to the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last October.

But despite the drama, Johnson’s job appears safe — for now.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has filed a resolution to oust the Speaker, but she has not said when she plans to trigger a vote on it. And Thursday, even as she railed against Johnson’s handling of the Ukraine debate, she said she’s not ready to force her vacate resolution to the floor.

“I’m not acting out of emotions or rash feelings or anger,” Greene said. “I’m doing this the right way, and I’m allowing my conference to see exactly what I saw months ago.”

Lending Johnson a huge boost — and perhaps a job-security lifeline — former President Trump threw his support behind the Speaker during a joint appearance at Mar-a-Lago last week, a vote of confidence that has muddied Greene’s path forward in her ouster effort.

Even if she does force a vote to remove Johnson, Democrats are likely to step in and save him. A number of Democrats in recent months have said that if the Speaker moves aid for Ukraine, they will protect him from a conservative coup. Some have predicted there are dozens of Democrats in that camp.

On Friday’s rule vote, the eleventh-hour help from Democrats did not come as a surprise: President Biden endorsed the foreign aid package earlier this week, and the four Democrats on the Rules Committee voted late Thursday night to advance the package through the panel over the opposition of three committee conservatives.

Nonetheless, the Democratic support was extraordinary: Members of the minority party rarely help majority leaders pass procedural rules. The only other instance of Democrats helping Republicans advance legislation on a procedural vote this Congress was in May, when Democrats crossed the aisle to support a rule to begin debate on the debt limit bill crafted by Biden and McCarthy.

Friday’s bipartisan vote to advance the foreign aid package — as well as Johnson’s decision to risk his gavel to bring it to the floor — reflect the urgency felt by leaders in both parties as Ukraine is running low on weapons supplies and Israel is under fire from Iran.

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