February 21, 2024


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Pressure grows on Johnson to make move on Ukraine aid as Russian invasion nears 2-year mark

House Speaker Mike Johnson is facing growing pressure from both sides of the aisle to deliver some kind of plan for Ukraine as the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches on Feb. 24.

The topic has become a lightning rod within the GOP, with a growing contingent of populist Republican lawmakers voicing skepticism about the U.S.’s involvement in the conflict. Some have gone as far as threatening Johnson’s leadership role if he held a vote on Ukraine aid.

But mainstream Republicans and Democrats still argue that it’s in the country’s best interest to help Kyiv remain independent of Russian President Vladimir Putin and that helping defeat the authoritarian leader is critical to avoiding a wider, more intense conflict.

That pressure took on a new significance over the weekend when Russia announced it had captured the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka after Ukrainian forces, low on ammo and personnel, retreated. It was the first significant gain by Russia in months.

And on Friday, the Russian government announced the death of top Putin critic Alexey Navalny in a penal colony in the Arctic Circle.

‘Ukrainians are literally running out of ammo and fleeing cities while Putin kills off his main rival in the gulag. Now is not a good time to give the Russians a hand,’ a Senate GOP aide told Fox News Digital.

On the Democrat side, White House communications director Ben LaBolt criticized the House GOP for being in recess during the situation, declaring in a statement on Tuesday, ‘House Republicans are on Day 5 of an early, undeserved vacation while their inaction does escalating damage to our national security.’

On Friday, a small group of bipartisan House members introduced a supplemental security package giving roughly $66 billion in military-only aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, while also taking steps to mitigate the U.S. border crisis, like reinstating the Trump administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy for a year.

House Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul, R-Texas, warned the same day that Johnson likely will have little choice on whether to hold a vote on some kind of foreign aid.

‘He’s either going to have to do it — put it on the floor himself — or it’s going to be by virtue of a discharge petition, which is a complete evisceration of his power because it basically says we’re going to do this without the speaker being in charge,’ McCaul said at a Christian Science Monitor panel event.

Meanwhile, Johnson has rejected two efforts by the Senate to pass its own supplemental security proposals, which both included about $60 billion for Ukraine. He said this month that passing Ukraine aid remains a focus of his, but he has not shared public plans to do so.

‘There is significant pressure on Johnson to act. That is part of the reason why Republicans that oppose Ukraine aid were so keen to see the Senate fail to pass [their plans],’ Doug Klain, policy analyst at Razom for Ukraine, told Fox News Digital on Tuesday. ‘They know the urgency, and members of Congress, including Johnson, they’ve been getting classified briefings telling them just how critical U.S. aid is to the war effort and what the stakes are for Ukraine.’

Fox News Digital reached out to a Johnson spokesperson to ask if the speaker would put the House bill up for a vote but did not hear back.

Meanwhile, a senior House GOP aide warned Fox News Digital that plan may already be ‘dead in the water.’ That aide noted that Republican hard-liners are pushing for nothing less than H.R.2, the House GOP border bill that Democrats panned as a ‘nonstarter.’

‘They really want this to be a Republican bill, and getting a … really stripped-down version of H.R.2 for Ukraine funding is not necessarily what they want,’ the House aide said.

GOP lawmakers opposed to Ukraine aid have raised questions about corruption within Kyiv’s government and have argued that the U.S. has too many issues of its own to be involved in a conflict with Russia.

Indeed, moving a Ukraine aid bill would come at a personal risk to Johnson. Conservatives in his conference, like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, have publicly floated threats to boot him from the speakership if it came to the floor. 

But at least one GOP lawmaker suggested to Fox News Digital that those threats could hold less weight than they appear.

‘Some conservatives caught hell back home for not [voting to vacate ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy], so now they are trying to curb all that heat by getting tough on [Johnson] before their primary,’ that lawmaker said.

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