Ukraine aid bill takes backseat to government funding, Speaker Mike Johnson tells The Post

Politics


White Sulfur Springs, W.Va. – House Speaker Mike Johnson indicated Wednesday evening that the House will not move on a supplemental aid package for Ukraine until it finishes funding the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year.

Johnson (R-La.) underscored his support for Kiev against Russia's invasion during a “fireside chat” with The Post's Josh Christensen at the House GOP Issues Conference, but said he would move too quickly on a bill that includes $60 billion in aid to the East. Europe may have drowned out government spending talks.

“It's important to us not to put the companion in front of the appropriations bills because it affects the vote count on the appropriations and we need to get our government funding,” Johnson said.

The Post's Josh Christensen interviews House Speaker Mike Johnson at a media event during the GOP retreat.

House Republicans have been at odds over government funding for nearly six months, and leadership has repeatedly been forced to lean on Democrats to avoid partial government shutdowns.

An intraparty dispute over appropriations led to the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last October. Many hardliners at his conference railed against more aid to Ukraine Some have even threatened to try to boot Johnson If he brings the subject to vote.

Over the weekend, President Biden signed a roughly $460 billion package of six of 12 spending bills needed to fund the government through the end of the 2024 fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Now Johnson is trying to finish the remaining six spending bills before the March 22nd deadline for the second part of the shutdown. That second batch is expected to account for more than two-thirds of Washington's total discretionary spending — including the Pentagon — and will therefore be difficult. To be led by Congress.

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Last month, the Senate passed a bipartisan $95 billion companion bill that included roughly $60 billion for Ukraine, but Johnson refused to vote it up in the House, much to Biden's chagrin.

“We're working on different options right now. It doesn't look exactly like the Senate companion,” Johnson told The Post.

President Biden reiterated during his State of the Union address last week that Speaker Mike Johnson should pull Ukraine aid. Michael Reynolds / Poole via CNP / SplashNews.com

“I notice they've been working on that bill — the Senate bill — for about four months, my numbers, and they expect me to process in days or weeks,” he added. “I understand the timetable and the urgency, the need for funding.”

A flood of Democrats and even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have urged Johnson to push ahead with an aid package for Ukraine as Kevin's forces continue to endure battlefield losses amid a weapons shortage.

“No one wants Vladimir Putin to win. I assume he will not stand in Ukraine. If he is allowed, he will go all over Europe,” Johnson said on Wednesday.

Speaker Mike Johnson touched on a series of hot-button issues during his wide-ranging interview with The Post. Good pictures

“There is a right and a wrong – good and evil in my view, and Ukraine is the victim here … they were invaded,” he continued. “We stand with goodness.”

But Johnson blamed the aid delay on Biden and his administration for not answering “key questions” about the conduct of the war and its palatable consequences for the United States.

“That process dragged on, not because of the House, but because — in my view — the White House was unwilling or unable to quickly process the answers we needed,” Johnson said.

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Republicans have long called for it to be tied to U.S. border security reforms, but a Senate deal to tackle both issues went belly-up last month and was rejected by Johnson.

“These things are still not addressed. The border is wide open. This is the biggest disaster on our coast, in our lifetime.

“It was not I who introduced the concept of Ukraine [the] The border has been put together based on our policy discussions. It's the president,” Johnson said.

The Ukrainians are beginning to suffer military setbacks as they run low on ammunition. Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

McCarthy was there too Pushed for border reforms and Ukraine should be put together before his fall from the post of speaker.

Recently, some House Republicans, led by House Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chairman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), have pushed forward with a discharge petition — a legislative technique to get a House vote on Ukraine aid by excluding Johnson.

Democrats have also launched their own discharge petition to take up the $95 billion package passed by the Senate.

President Biden asked Congress last August to top up aid to Ukraine, but the legislature has been deadlocked ever since. Good pictures

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced $300 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

Johnson also expressed hope that McConnell would not give up trying to ink the border reform package.

“I certainly hope he hasn't given up on it because the American people are demanding our action. We passed HR 2 … 11 months ago. We can't let it go — we have to insist on it,” the speaker said.

The House Republican Issues Conference began Wednesday at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, as lawmakers huddled to craft policy ideas for the rest of the legislative year.

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The retreat continues through Friday.





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