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US House Speaker: No Vote on Foreign Aid Before Domestic Issues Get Addressed


Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, joined from left by Majority Whip Tom Emmer and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, departs after meeting with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 14, 2024.
Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, joined from left by Majority Whip Tom Emmer and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, departs after meeting with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 14, 2024.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Wednesday the American people want lawmakers to focus on domestic problems instead of on sending assistance overseas, repeating his pledge not to bring up the $95 billion bipartisan Senate foreign aid bill for a vote.

“We're going to continue to demand that before we take care of issues all around the world we take care of our own first,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday. “That is not a campaign message. That is the truth. And that is what resonates in the hearts of the American people. We are on their side. It's the side of common sense. It's the side of security, side of stability.”

But Democrats said the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives, including some moderate Republicans, want to debate and vote on the Senate legislation.

“All we're asking for is a vote,” House Democratic Chair Pete Aguilar told reporters Wednesday. “Over 300 members would vote for a package like that, but the question isn't for House Democrats. The question is for Speaker Johnson. What is he afraid of? To put national security first? To help our country push back against Putin and make sure that our country is protected? What is his concern?”

In a "Dear Colleague" letter Tuesday, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said, "Traditional Republicans must now put America first, and stand up to Pro-Putin extremists in the House who apparently want Russia to win. The American people deserve an up or down vote, and we will use every available legislative tool to get comprehensive national security legislation over the finish line."

House Democrats could force a vote through a procedural motion called a discharge petition.

U.S. President Joe Biden called on U.S. lawmakers Tuesday to swiftly pass the aid package.

"I call on the speaker to let the full House speak its mind and not allow a minority of most extreme voices in the House to block this bill even from being voted on," Biden told reporters.

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed the aid package by a 70-29 vote, with more than a dozen Republicans joining the majority Democrats in support.29 vote, with more than a dozen Republicans joining the majority Democrats in support.

Watch related report by Katherine Gypson:

US Senate Passes $95B Foreign Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy quickly expressed gratitude, saying U.S. aid "helps to save human lives from Russian terror."

"American assistance brings just peace in Ukraine closer and restores global stability, resulting in increased security and prosperity for all Americans and all the free world," Zelenskyy said on X.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the measure is "one of the most historic and consequential bills passed [in] the Senate. A bill that so greatly impacts not just our national security, just the security of our allies, but also the security of democracy as we know it."

He pointed to the bipartisan support and expressed confidence that a vote in the House would bring a similar outcome.

House Republicans have tied objections to further Ukraine assistance with a push for action on security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate Republicans last week blocked advancing a measure that included the foreign assistance along with provisions to tighten restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border to try to curb the flow of thousands of migrants from crossing into the United States each day.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump opposed the border measure, saying it was not tough enough, and Republican lawmakers followed his lead on the issue.

Some right-wing Republican lawmakers, many of them aligned with Trump, have also voiced increasing opposition to sending more aid to Ukraine for its fight against the Russian invasion, imperiling approval of the assistance even though most Democratic lawmakers are in favor.

"We have already given Ukraine more than $120 billion. This is more than enough money to secure every border in our country. Unfortunately, but predictably, the $120 billion we've sent Ukraine has resulted in a yearslong stalemate that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, both Ukrainian and Russian," Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville said on the Senate floor Monday.

U.S. defense officials voiced hope that House lawmakers will approve the supplemental aid package soon, noting that Ukraine's forces are "still in the fight of their life."

"Make no mistake — our allies and our adversaries are watching," said Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh, briefing reporters Tuesday.

"It's really important to send a message of resolve," she said, adding, "as soon as we get this supplemental package passed in the House, [Ukraine] will continue to see aid flowing to them."

U.S. and Western officials have said Kyiv's most urgent needs include air defenses and artillery.

But a report Tuesday from the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service raised concerns about how quickly the U.S. and its Western allies can supply Ukraine with what it needs.

"It is almost certain that Western ammunition deliveries to Ukraine in 2024 will not be able to keep pace with the supplies available for the Russian Armed Forces," the report warned. "Russia's advantage over Ukraine in terms of available artillery ammunition will likely continue to grow."

Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.