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House Releases Foreign Aid Bills
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House Releases Foreign Aid Bills

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s gambit to fund Israel and Ukraine could put his speakership on the line.

Happy Thursday! New polling data suggests that voters think Donald Trump would outperform Joe Biden in a game of Monopoly and in a fight against a medium-sized dog. Monopoly, we get—that game is essentially based on Trump’s career. But Biden has some hard-earned wisdom and experience when it comes to fighting medium-sized dogs!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A Russian missile attack on the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv on Wednesday morning killed at least 17 people and injured 60 others, including three children, according to state emergency officials. The missiles struck the city’s downtown region around 9 a.m. local time, demolishing numerous civilian buildings, including a hospital and higher education institute. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lamented that the deadly attack could have been thwarted had the country possessed adequate air defenses. One city official said that missile attacks coming from Russia used to be frequently downed, “but not any more, it seems.”
  • Hezbollah—the Lebanon-based terrorist organization backed by Iran—carried out a drone and missile assault on a village in northern Israel on Wednesday, injuring 14 Israeli soldiers and four civilians. The attack, which left five people in serious or critical condition, according to the Israeli military, is one of the most significant in the last six months of cross-border exchanges. Hezbollah said the barrage was in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon on Tuesday that killed two Hezbollah commanders.
  • The U.S. reinstated sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and gas sector on Wednesday after the Biden administration claimed Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro failed to stand by an October pledge to conduct free and fair democratic elections. According to the State Department, Maduro has blocked and harassed opposition candidates and unjustly arrested political adversaries and activists. “We again call on Maduro to allow all candidates and parties to participate in the electoral process and release all political prisoners without restrictions or delay,” a State Department spokesperson wrote in a statement. To ensure an “orderly process,” the administration will issue a 45-day “wind-down license,” and then will consider requests for exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
  • House Republican leadership on Wednesday released the text of the four separate foreign aid and national security bills that Speaker Mike Johnson announced earlier this week. The bill for Ukraine aid amounts to $61 billion—$10 billion of which will be in the form of a loan. The Israel bill totals $26 billion and includes humanitarian aid for Gaza, while the third bill designates $8.12 billion for Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific countries. The four bills combine for a total of $95 billion in spending, matching the joint aid package passed in the Senate in February before languishing in the House. President Joe Biden endorsed the House legislation in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, calling it a “strong and sensible plan.” Johnson also said the House will vote on a border security bill, as well as a bill to seize Russian sovereign assets and force a TikTok divestment—but the foreign aid legislation is facing steep opposition from hardline House Republicans and could put Johnson’s speakership at risk.
  • The Senate voted 51-49 and 51-48 on Wednesday to dismiss the two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that House Republicans delivered on Tuesday without holding a trial. The votes fell strictly along party lines, with the exception of Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted “present” on the first article accusing Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law.”

Mike Johnson’s Foreign Aid Dilemma

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on April 17, 2024. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on April 17, 2024. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

This week in the House of Representatives was supposed to be all about household appliances. A look at the active legislation from the Rules Committee—a House bill’s springboard onto the House floor—last week would have revealed such courageous and impressive legislative feats as the “Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act,” the “Liberty in Laundry Act,” and the “Refrigerator Freedom Act.” 

Iran’s weekend attack on Israel swept aside concerns about unaffordable dishwasher standards, bringing the question of aid to the U.S. ally back to the fore—and with it, the even thornier issue of military support for Ukraine. Now, House Speaker Mike Johnson is trying to thread the needle with an ambitious set of bills—the texts of which were released Wednesday—that would provide funds for Israel, Ukraine, and the Indo-Pacific. At the same time, he’s hoping to assuage the concerns of his right flank, fringe elements of which are threatening to oust him over his support for Ukraine.

After a bruising fight earlier this year, the Senate passed supplemental foreign aid funding stripped of the immigration reform provisions that were originally set to accompany it to appease Republicans skeptical of the aid. The $95 billion package—funds that would resupply U.S. weapons stockpiles to allow the Defense Department to continue sending arms to Ukraine, providing new weapons systems for Israel, and funding to counter China in the Indo-Pacific—has been in never-never land between the Senate and the House ever since. Johnson had for weeks refused to entertain the bill, in part because it didn’t include the border security reforms he himself was instrumental in tanking

Even if he’s stonewalled the Senate package, the speaker has tried to break off aid to Israel—more popular with his fellow Republicans than funds for Kyiv—into a single-issue bill and get it passed. But in early February, an effort to do so was foiled by conservatives who wanted the spending offset by cuts elsewhere and progressives who were against aid to Israel that didn’t include humanitarian funding for Gaza.

Johnson has also repeatedly signaled his intention to eventually have the House vote on aid for Ukraine, a departure from his time as a rank-and-file member when he voted against Ukraine aid several times. His plan was to bring a Ukraine-focused bill that was independent of the funds for other countries but paired with various and sundry policy sweeteners for the small but vocal isolationist minority of his conference. But that promise hadn’t materialized in two months, perhaps because Johnson was buffeted by the winds of his angry, hardline flank which had threatened his speakership over the issue.

After Johnson shepherded through a major government spending bill in March, GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia filed a motion to vacate—the mechanism that could force a vote on the speaker’s ouster. And while it wasn’t part of her stated reasoning at the time, the potential for Johnson to push for Ukraine aid has certainly been tacked onto her list of grievances. “I’m not saying I have a red line or a trigger, and I’m not saying I don’t have a red line or trigger,” she said earlier this month of her threat. “And I think that’s just where I’m at right now. But I’m going to tell you right now: Funding Ukraine is probably one of the most egregious things that he can do.”

Even with that threat hanging over his head, this weekend’s attack on Israel seemed to have been an “ah-ha” moment for Johnson on both aid to Israel and Ukraine. On Monday, he announced a risky four-bill gambit: One bill for each of the prongs of the Senate foreign aid package—Israel, Ukraine, and the Indo-Pacific—plus olive branch legislation for his conservative flank that would tie together a potential TikTok ban and an effort to seize Russian sovereign assets. By way of explanation for his now-urgent desire to support allies overseas, the speaker on Wednesday professed himself to be a “Reagan Republican” who believes “a strong America is good for the entire world,” and characterized supporting Ukraine against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion as a U.S. “responsibility.” 

For weeks, Greene had been mostly alone in her open threats to Johnson’s job. Even Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida—who pioneered this trick when he led the effort to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy six months ago—seemed to acknowledge another speakership fight might not be prudent. Plus, as of Friday, Johnson had the support of former President Donald Trump. 

But after Johnson threw his support behind the foreign aid earlier this week, libertarian-leaning GOP Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky announced he would join Greene as a co-sponsor on her motion to vacate and demanded the speaker announce his resignation so the conference could begin selecting someone else while he was still in place. “He’s going for the trifecta, the Triple Crown,” Massie said Tuesday, citing his opposition to the March spending bill that funded the government, the reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act without a provision to require warrants to search Americans’ data, and Ukraine aid. Johnson said unequivocally that he wouldn’t be resigning. 

Despite Massie upping the ante, Johnson went ahead with his plan on Wednesday, releasing the text of the four bills, plus a fifth focused on Republican border security priorities—potentially an answer to conservative criticisms that Monday’s plan didn’t include border security measures. Though the aid bills are notionally independent, they seem to be a functional match for the sewn-together provisions in the Senate package. The three foreign aid bills even add up to the same $95 billion price tag as the stalled Senate version: One would provide roughly $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, another some $26 billion for Israel, and a third roughly $8 billion for allies in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Roughly $9 billion of the $26 billion in the Israel bill would be set aside for humanitarian aid in Gaza, a Democratic ask. And in the package for Ukraine, about $10 billion in economic aid for the government in Kyiv would be turned into a loan—though the loan could later be forgiven by the president, subject to congressional oversight. Assuming there’s sufficient support for the bills to bring them to the floor, Johnson has said there will be an amendment process on each of them, something he hailed as part of “regular order.” That same privilege would reportedly not be afforded to the Senate, which would receive the various bills combined together as one package through an arcane piece of procedural wizardry.

With a 72-hour waiting period technically required for members to read the bills, a final vote could come on Saturday—and not a minute too soon, since the House goes back on recess next week for the Passover holiday.

President Joe Biden, who had previously opposed any move to break up the Senate’s package, came out in strong support of the bills on Wednesday, including with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. “The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow,” he said in a statement. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.” 

Johnson’s maneuvering has dialed up the temperature in the ongoing civil war between traditional Republicans in the House and their more populist colleagues. Even if they aren’t (yet) ready to back a motion to vacate, plenty of hardliners are furious with the speaker. Gaetz, for example, described Johnson’s plan as an “abject surrender.” 

Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a member of the House Rules Committee who has to vote on advancing the bills Johnson has proposed, had lobbied the speaker for border provisions, got them—though not tied to the foreign aid as he desired—and was still livid. “The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100 billion in foreign aid – while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists, & fentanyl pour across our border,” Rep. Chip Roy tweeted Wednesday. “The border ‘vote’ in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote. I will oppose.”

But plenty of moderates are equally enraged at their colleagues who have been holding things up. “The three members who refuse to support the Speaker’s agenda should resign from the Rules Committee immediately,” said GOP Rep. Mike Lawler on Wednesday, referring to hardliners Roy, Massie, and Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, each of whom McCarthy had put on the powerful committee last year in exchange for their support. “If they refuse, they should be removed immediately. They are there on behalf of the conference, not themselves.” 

Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a hawkish Republican, didn’t mince words about his fellow Republicans opposed to Ukraine aid. “I guess their reasoning is they want Russia to win so badly that they want to oust the speaker over it, I mean that’s a strange position to take,” he said

With the Republican conference in disarray, it’s increasingly likely that Democrats will once again have to bail Johnson out—by helping him pass these aid bills and potentially by voting to preserve him as speaker if Greene and Massie deploy their nuclear option. It was a prospect Johnson seemed all too aware of Wednesday, acknowledging he would need Democrats to break tradition to vote with the majority to bring the bills to the floor for debate. “I don’t have all my Republicans who agree on that rule,” he said. “And that means the only way to get a rule on the floor is that it requires a couple of Democrats.” Given they are now backed by the White House, the aid bills will likely have plenty of Democratic support.

And with his vicissitudes on Ukraine aid now behind him, Johnson spoke Wednesday evening with newfound resolve in the face of his potential ouster. “History judges us for what we do,” he told reporters. “I could make a selfish decision and do something that’s different, but I’m doing here what I believe to be the right thing. I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important.” 

“To put it bluntly,” he added, “I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys.” 

Worth Your Time

  • “‘Believe women’ and ‘Silence is violence’ have been rallying cries of progressive feminist organizations for decades,” Michael A. Cohen writes in The Atlantic, brutally condemning October 7 rape denialism. “But the same empathy and support have not been shown for Israeli victims. Many prominent feminist and human-rights groups—including Amnesty International and the National Organization for Women—said little about the sexual-violence allegations. International organizations tasked with protecting women in wartime kept their powder dry. UN Women waited until December 1, nearly two months after the Hamas attack, to issue a perfunctory statement of condemnation. Across the United States and Western Europe, criticism of Israel’s actions quickly and predictably veered into rank anti-Semitism, with Jewish organizations, cultural institutions, artists, and individual Jews targeted by pro-Palestine activists because of Israel’s actions. But rape denialism falls into its own separate and bewildering category. Why have so many of Israel’s critics—and pro-Palestine activists—chosen to fight on this hill? … Leftists who genuinely support Palestinian statehood do that cause, and themselves, no favor by denying the overwhelming evidence of sexual violence.”
  • A penny saved is a penny earned—and for one waste-management facility in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, that totals “at least $10 million worth of coins” thrown away by people over the last seven years, wrote Oyin Adedoyin in the Wall Street Journal. “Americans toss as much as $68 million worth of change each year, according to Reworld,” she reported. “The sustainable-waste processing company is on a treasure-hunt to find it.” People are literally throwing money away: “Physical currency has become more of an annoyance, but change is often more trouble than it is worth to carry around. The U.S. quarter had roughly the buying power in 1980 that a dollar has today. … On a recent Monday, a bucket loader lifted trash from its waste facilities into various sorting machines. A rattling gray one separated out anything that was the color of a coin. Another one separated anything round and flat, like a coin. And another machine separated heavier metals like coins from lighter metals like aluminum. … Because the trash was incinerated before it reached the facility, some coins were mangled beyond recognition. Of the $10 million in coins the company has recovered, some $6 million has been in good enough condition to use.”

Presented Without Comment

Politico: Trump Campaign Asks for Cut of Candidates’ Fundraising When They Use His Name and Likeness

“Beginning tomorrow, we ask that all candidates and committees who choose to use President Trump’s name, image, and likeness split a minimum of 5% of all fundraising solicitations to Trump National Committee JFC. This includes but is not limited to sending to the house file, prospecting vendors, and advertising,” Trump co-campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita wrote in the letter, which is dated April 15.

They add: “Any split that is higher than 5% will be seen favorably by the RNC and President Trump’s campaign and is routinely reported to the highest levels of leadership within both organizations.”

Also Presented Without Comment

The Denver Gazette: [Marjorie Taylor Greene] Introduces Amendment to Require House Members to Enlist in Ukrainian Military if They Vote for Ukraine Aid

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: The Dispatch Politics crew reported on the backlash against Joe Biden from Arab-American voters in Michigan, Scott argued (🔒) that Millennials don’t have it quite as bad as social media says they do, Jonah noted that (🔒) democracy is more of a hedge against bad outcomes than a way to assure good outcomes, and Nick wondered why (🔒) Joe Biden hasn’t pursued a Sister Souljah moment yet.
  • On the podcasts: Eli Lake joins Jonah on The Remnant to discuss the conflict between Israel and Iran, the growth of bipartisan isolationism, and the devolution of Tucker Carlson. Plus, Sarah and David discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling on Idaho’s ban on gender-transition treatment on Advisory Opinions
  • On the site: Joe Polidoro explores the promise and hype of nuclear fusion energy. 

Let Us Know

What do you think is driving Speaker Johnson’s renewed push to advance the foreign aid that he’s sat on for so long?

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.

Peter Gattuso is a reporter for The Morning Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2024, he interned at The Dispatch, National Review, the Cato Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. When Peter is not helping write TMD, he is probably watching baseball, listening to music on vinyl records, or discussing the Jones Act.