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House speaker to push for passage of stalled US aid bill

FILE - Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 29, 2024.
FILE - Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 29, 2024.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to push forward wartime aid for Israel this week as part of his effort to gain House approval for a national security package. It includes funding for Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia as well as funding to send U.S. weapons to Taiwan.

The House speaker is under enormous pressure to satisfy opposing sides within the Republican Party regarding a $95 billion supplemental U.S. aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan as well as for civilians in Ukraine and Gaza. The bill has been stalled for two months in Congress.

Senior Republican lawmakers who support aid to Ukraine are growing frustrated with the monthslong wait to bring the bill to the House floor. Kyiv's troops have been running low on ammunition and Russia is gaining ground. A massive missile and drone attack destroyed one of Ukraine's largest power plants and damaged others last week.

Separately, a growing number of hard-line conservatives are openly defying Johnson for toeing the line of the Biden administration on government spending.

The unprecedented attack by Iran on Israel early Sunday has piled on even more pressure on Johnson, but it also offered him a platform to impress on Congress the urgency of approving the funding.

“The details of that package are being put together right now,” he said. “We’re looking at the options and all these supplemental issues,” he told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” show.

So far, the only aid package with wide bipartisan support in Congress is the Senate-passed bill that includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel, awaiting its fate in the House.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby called on the House speaker to put the package "on the floor as soon as possible."

"We didn't need any reminders in terms of what's going on in Ukraine," Kirby said on NBC. "But last night certainly underscores significantly the threat that Israel faces in a very, very tough neighborhood."

With his job hanging in the balance and some fellow Republican lawmakers calling for his ouster, Johnson is looking for ways to pass the bill, by structuring some of the aid for Kyiv as loans. He also supports tapping into frozen Russian central bank assets.

Johnson has also demanded policy changes at the U.S. border with Mexico. He has been in conversations with both the White House and former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Many Democrats also have signaled they would likely be willing to help Johnson defeat an effort to remove him from the speaker's office if he puts the Senate bill on the floor.

"I'm one of those who would save him if we can do Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine and some reasonable border security," said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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