Republicans embark on risky plan to splinter Israel and Ukraine aid amid doomsday warnings

Democrats say decision not to bring foreign aid bill for final House vote is 'deeply convoluted' as Republicans again threaten to remove their Speaker

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson. AFP
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Republicans in the US House of Representatives are warning that “the world is on fire” after Iran's strike against Israel and amid dwindling hope for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

But amid political infighting, they are choosing a long and complicated path to extinguish those flames, as pressure to remove their own House Speaker, Mike Johnson, increases.

Instead of bringing a long-waiting bipartisan foreign aid bill to the House for a final vote after it passed the Senate earlier this year, Mr Johnson is in the process of drafting four bills to break the larger package down.

Far-right factions in Mr Johnson's own Republican Party are opposed to Washington increasing funding to Ukraine, and seem prepared to remove the Speaker over it.

The Republican momentum to remove Mr Johnson from his post over the debacle gained new steam on Tuesday.

Republican Representative Thomas Massie said he would join his far-right colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene in co-sponsoring a “motion to vacate”, which begins the process of removing Mr Johnson from the speakership.

But Mr Johnson was resolute. “I am not resigning,” he told reporters at a Tuesday media briefing.

“It is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion. We're simply here trying to do our job.”

The four funding bills in Mr Johnson's plan include one for Israel, for which funding has widespread bipartisan support, and one for Ukraine.

The other two bills brought to the House floor for a vote will include funding for Taiwan, and another with Republican foreign policy plans including a bill that could ban TikTok, according to reports.

Mr Johnson told reporters on Tuesday that all of these are still being drafted and there are not final versions of text available.

“The world is on fire and history will judge us by our actions,” House foreign affairs committee chairman Mike McCaul said alongside Mr Johnson.

The Republican chairman, who thanked Mr Johnson for his leadership during this “very difficult time and very dangerous time”, has previously supported bringing the Senate supplemental bill to the House floor for a vote, but on Tuesday said this package “would be far better than the Senate's”.

The process for getting either of these bills over the threshold seems daunting, as Democrats appear united in support of the already-passed Senate bill that Mr Johnson has so far refused to bring to for a vote.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that President Joe Biden “wouldn't support” a stand-alone Israel bill.

And a Democratic congressional aide told The National on Monday that the splintering process is “way too challenging and complicated”.

“There doesn't need to be an issue. There doesn't have to be any major revisions on our end,” the aide said.

House armed services committee ranking member Adam Smith issued a harsh warning on Tuesday, calling Mr Johnson's package “deeply convoluted” and a “twisted process”.

Why is the US struggling to pass Israel funding during the war in Gaza?

Why is the US struggling to pass Israel funding during the war in Gaza?

“Best-case scenario, if they pull this together, maybe two months from now we'll be able to figure this out once it goes back to the Senate,” Mr Smith told a committee hearing.

"That is basically boiling Ukraine to death slowly."

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, cast the infighting in the US as an existential moment for the country.

“I regard myself as a as a wartime speaker … I didn't anticipate that this would be easy,” he said.

“A single-vote margin and a difficult time when the nation is terribly divided. The way [Republicans] get through that is we show unity.”

Updated: April 16, 2024, 7:27 PM