House Speaker Mike Johnson Pushes Towards a Vote on Aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Speaker Mike Johnson is pushing toward action this week on aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, unveiling an elaborate plan Monday to break the package into separate votes to squeeze through the House's political divides on foreign policy.

Facing an outright rebellion from conservatives fiercely opposed to aiding Ukraine, the Republican speaker's move on the foreign aid package was a potentially watershed moment, the first significant action on the bill after more than two months of delay. But Johnson's intention to hold four separate votes on parts of the package also left it open to being significantly altered from the $95 billion aid package the Senate passed in February.

It's unclear if the House could end up with a package that is similar to the Senate's bill or something significantly different, which could complicate the months-long, painstaking effort to get Congress to approve military funding for Ukraine.

"We will let the House work its will," Johnson told reporters.

But as the House has struggled to act, conflicts around the world have escalated. Israel's military chief said Monday that his country will respond to Iran's weekend missile strike. And Ukraine's military head warned over the weekend that the battlefield situation in the country's east has "significantly worsened in recent days," as warming weather has allowed Russian forces to launch a fresh offensive.

"There are precipitating events around the globe that we're all watching very carefully and we know the world is watching us to see how we react," Johnson said.

President Joe Biden, hosting Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala at the White House, called on the House to take up the Senate funding package immediately. "They have to do it now," he said.

Johnson and Biden spoke Monday, according to a person familiar with the call and granted anonymity to discuss it.

Democrats in the House could be open to helping Johnson pass the aid in parts, and may even be agreeable to some of the additional measures being discussed by Republicans, such as providing some of the Ukraine economic assistance as loans.

But Johnson would lose the Democratic support he needs if he strays too far into Republican-only priorities. Any overhaul to the package also risks setbacks in the Senate, where a bulk of Republicans oppose the aid for Ukraine and Democrats have become increasingly alarmed at Israel's campaign in Gaza.

As House members returned to the Capitol Monday evening, Johnson huddled with fellow GOP lawmakers to lay out his strategy to gain House approval for the funding package. He said he would push to get the package to the House floor under a single debate rule that allows for separate votes on aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other foreign policy proposals.

Johnson said those proposals would structure some of the funding for Kyiv as loans, allow the U.S. to seize frozen Russian central bank assets and place other sanctions on Iran.

The GOP meeting was filled with lawmakers at odds in their approach to the conflict with Russia: Republican defense hawks, including the top lawmakers on national security committees, are pitted against populist conservatives who are fiercely opposed to continued support for Kyiv's fight.

As often happens, the meeting turned into a free-for-all of ideas as Republicans tried to put their own stamp on the package but rarely found any unity. Yet Johnson's plan won over significant Republican support, said Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., as he left the meeting.

"I don't like it," he said. "But I'm clearly in the minority."

Still, Johnson's support for Ukraine aid could further incite the populist conservatives who are already angry at his direction as speaker.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is already threatening to oust him as speaker. As she entered the closed-door Republican meeting on Monday, she said her message to the speaker was simple: "Don't fund Ukraine."

But Greene did not indicate whether she would move for a quick vote on her motion to remove the speaker if the Ukraine aid is approved.

"I'm thinking it over," she said.

Another unknown was how Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner who has railed against overseas aid, would respond to the proposal. Johnson met with Trump on Friday at his club in Florida.

"I don't spend my time worrying about motions to vacate," Johnson said Monday. "We're having to govern here, and we're going to do our job."

Democrats had pressured Johnson to simply take up the Senate-passed bill that would provide a total of $95 billion for the U.S. allies, as well as humanitarian support for civilians in Gaza and Ukraine.

"The House must rush to Israel's aid as quickly as humanly possible, and the only way to do that is passing the Senate's supplemental ASAP," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries pledged in a letter to lawmakers to do "everything in our legislative power to confront aggression" around the globe, and he cast the situation as similar to the lead-up to World War II.

"The gravely serious events of this past weekend in the Middle East and Eastern Europe underscore the need for Congress to act immediately," Jeffries said. "We must take up the bipartisan and comprehensive national security bill passed by the Senate forthwith."

Democrats have also circulated a last-ditch option, known as a discharge petition, that could force a floor vote on the aid without the speaker's approval. The petition has gained 195 lawmakers' signatures, leaving it about a dozen votes shy of the majority it would need.

But Republican supporters of the Senate's Ukraine package appeared encouraged by Johnson's plan, even though they hadn't yet seen the details.

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said the House proposal could "significantly delay" the aid because it is four different measures that would have to be sent back to the Senate, and it's unclear whether the Senate could combine them into one. Still, he said, "It's OK because we can still respond to it."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday afternoon urged the House to take up the Senate bill.

He said in a floor speech, "We cannot hope to deter conflict without demonstrating resolve and investing seriously in American strength."