As Democrats continue to publicly express hope for the Biden administration’s nearly $106 billion funding request for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, they also remain vexed about how to move a bill through the Republican-run House, writes POLITICO.
The dynamics of the GOP House have alarmed the West Wing. Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated that he’ll at some point bring a vote on Ukraine, but those in the White House do not yet have a clear read on the new Republican leader or his negotiating style, according to two senior aides not authorized to speak publicly about private deliberations.
Few in Biden’s orbit have ever met Johnson, a religious conservative who was largely unknown until his stunning ascent to the speakership. And while the West Wing didn’t appreciate former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s grandstanding, they did feel like he eventually wanted to deal — and they are less sure about Johnson, according to the officials. Moreover, the same fringe group of Republicans who ousted McCarthy wield that same power over Johnson — and they are largely opposed to helping Ukraine, making a path to deal that much more difficult.
“People are well aware that if a vote were put up in the House of Representatives today, it would pass with an overwhelming majority of members — that the issue is not the level of support as it is getting to that vote,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.). “Because of the political conditions and the change in leadership, getting the vote has been the hard part.”
On two occasions already, Democrats tried but failed to get aid to Ukraine in a must-pass funding bill. With another deadline to spark action not coming until the latest stopgap funding bills expire in late January and early February, many of Congress’ strongest Ukraine backers fear the country can’t wait that long.
“I don’t know that Ukraine can survive until February of 2024,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “My sense is they start to run short on ammunition in the next several weeks.”
Should that vote happen, it would provide a massive test both for the administration’s ability to work Capitol Hill and one of the bedrock elements of the president’s foreign policy agenda.
But the main obstacle still remains: what to do about Republican opposition.
Since passage of the last Ukraine supplemental, Kyiv’s counteroffensive has stalled and conservative support in Washington has crumbled with the GOP’s leader, Donald Trump, opposing it. The outbreak of war in the Middle East has led to the addition of aid to Israel — and growing demands by progressive Democrats for a cease-fire and conditions on aid to Israel.
While support for Israel has strong support in both chambers, senators and administration officials insist that Israel and Ukraine funding remain together, notes POLITICO.