Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) managed to guide an Israeli aid bill to passage in the House Thursday that’s dead on arrival in the Senate, but will appease his right flank.
A dozen Democrats voted for the bill, likely to avoid getting smacked with ads about their opposition to Israeli aid, safe in the knowledge that the bill will never become law.
Johnson had uncoupled the relief from aid for Ukraine, which is growing ever less popular among House Republicans. He also added in a poison pill to slash IRS funding, both a longtime Republican fixation and Democratic nonstarter.
The move puts him at odds with the Senate, which, at least so far, is still proceeding with the two foreign aid bundles linked. Senate Republicans, as a whole, are much more supportive of helping Ukraine than their House counterparts. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in particular has been outspoken about not abandoning the country after Russia’s invasion in 2022.
“As I’ve explained repeatedly, the emergency funding we’ve appropriated in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine isn’t charity,” McConnell said Thursday morning on the floor.
He seemed to add a warning to members of his party: “This will not continue if America loses its resolve,” he said of collective efforts to bolster Ukraine’s resources from U.S. allies. “We don’t have the luxury of closing our gates and hoping for evil to leave us alone.”
Senate Republicans are demanding that some border security-related measures be added into the foreign aid supplemental, though they’ve suggested that they’re not aiming at a conservative wishlist Democrats can’t possibly support.
Keeping the aid linked does not currently seem to be the source of contention in the upper chamber that it is in the lower.
“The Senate overwhelmingly supports aid, both for Ukraine and Israel,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told TPM. “There may be a couple dissenting voices, but at least publicly, and in all the conversations that I’ve had, the support is solid.”
“They want to support Ukraine but they just want some border investments and policies and we’ll work with them on that,” added Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).
If the Senate continues in this kumbaya vein, the same House dynamics from the Kevin McCarthy tenure take shape again: Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and House Democrats all supporting more or less the same thing, with a chunk of House Republicans out on a branch alone.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has already said that the Senate won’t even take up the House Republicans’ Israel standalone.
As of now, if Senate Republicans stay supportive of Ukraine, the likeliest scenario is that the Senate will pass its Israel plus Ukraine funding bundle on a bipartisan basis. That’ll force the new speaker to either ignore legislation that likely would have attracted significant Republican support — amid angry Senate cries about abandoning Israel — or hope that his hardliners care about Israel too much to let their opposition to Ukraine funding sink the bill.
The bad news for Johnson is that the foreign aid pieces were never expected to be the heaviest legislative lift in his earliest days in the job. He’ll also have to figure out a way to fund the government come November 17, in a conference that previously fought tooth and nail against short-term continuing resolutions. Johnson’s honeymoon period might blunt that opposition this time, though he’s already throwing out some head-scratching alternatives, including a “laddered” continuing resolution that would fund different agencies for different time spans — in effect creating a waterfall of shutdown threats.
“I think the speaker doesn’t have a clue,” top House Democratic appropriator Rose DeLauro (D-CT) told reporters in response. “He doesn’t know about the appropriations process… That’s 12 shutdowns. What are we talking about?”