Our Best Stuff From a Week the House Passed Ukraine Aid

Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to members of the press after the House of Representatives passed bills, including aid to Ukraine and Israel on April 20, 2024. (Photo by Nathan Posner/Anadolu/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Sunday. So much news happened this week that to decide what to write about here, I scribbled down the big headlines on scraps of paper, pinned them to our dart board, closed my eyes, and fired away. OK, not really. However tempting the idea, I’d have probably just added another hole to the basement wall. But it was a monumental week: Donald Trump became the first-ever former president to face a criminal trial, and Israel retaliated against Iran for the Islamic Republic’s (failed) attack last weekend. As big as those stories are, though, the most intriguing developments this week came out of the House of Representatives. 

On Saturday, the House passed legislation providing $95 billion in aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Aid for Ukraine enjoys wide support in the House, but a good number of Republicans oppose the funding. Some, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, are flat-out opposed to Ukraine aid, but others had hoped that any foreign aid package would be paired with reforms to help secure the southern border. Greene last month introduced a motion to vacate the chair, calling it “more of a warning than a pink slip” at the time, though she threatened to bring a vote if he were to introduce Ukraine aid. 

Johnson seems to have called their bluff successfully, and he did so with an assist of sorts from Donald Trump and the support of House Democrats. (No, I did not have that on my 2024 bingo card.) The Friday before last, Johnson visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago, not to garner support for Ukraine but to promote House legislation that would require proof of citizenship to vote. In their press conference, Trump vouched for Johnson, saying that he “stand[s] with the speaker” and that Johnson is “doing a good job.”

Back in D.C., Johnson came out publicly for Ukraine aid, as we detailed in Friday’s Dispatch Politics. “I really do believe the intel and the briefings that we’ve gotten,” he said Wednesday. “I believe Xi and Vladimir Putin and Iran really are an axis of evil. I think they’re in coordination on this. I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed. I think he might go to the Balkans next. I think he might have a showdown with Poland or one of our [other] NATO allies. To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys.”

But Johnson faced a challenge in getting the aid package to the floor: First it had to get out of the Rules Committee. Three Republicans on the committee—Chip Roy of Texas, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky—were opposed, and that should have been enough to sink it. But then all the Democrats on the committee voted for it, breaking a longstanding tradition of members of the minority never voting for something if the majority has too few votes to pass it.

The package is complex: There are three separate bills for funding Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, and a fourth bill that deals with TikTok. After the four bills passed separately, they would be tied together. The House had to vote Friday on the rule regarding the package, and it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

While Johnson’s opponents have yet to call for a vote on the motion to vacate filed recently by Greene, that doesn’t mean Johnson is in the clear. And to keep his job, he might need the support of Democrats. Will that happen? From Dispatch Politics:

Would House Democrats be willing to protect Johnson from a motion to vacate for the rest of the year? “We want a governing and governable House and so, you know, our actions will be taken consistent with wanting to deliver for people,” [Democratic Rep. Adam] Schiff replied.

Nick followed the story all week for Boiling Frogs, and he came away pleasantly surprised by Johnson. Remember that Johnson became speaker last fall only after Reps. Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Tom Emmer all failed in their bids: He wasn’t known for much besides being a sincere social conservative and for supporting and promoting Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Nick wonders if the speakership has changed him. “Perhaps being thrust into power awakened Johnson’s Reaganite conscience,” he writes. “If so, that would make him very different from the standard-issue Republican in the age of Trump.” That’s good news by Nick’s standard, but he’s also hopeful that maybe, just maybe, traditional Republicans are having a moment on which Johnson can capitalize: “It’s no wonder, then, that Mike Johnson might seize this moment as an opportunity to push hard on Ukraine aid,” he writes. “Republican hawks are suddenly in the mood for a fight with the MAGAs; the political repercussions of joining hands with the other party to help Kyiv and quash an uprising against the speaker has probably never worried them less.” 

Thanks for reading, and have a great Sunday.

Iran’s Attack on Israel Coalesces U.S. Allies

A week ago, we awoke to the news that Israel had repelled an aggressive assault from Iran, successfully intercepting 99 percent of the 350 missiles and drones launched by the Islamic Republic. But the military victory was not the only positive development. During the strike, the U.S., U.K., France, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia came to Israel’s defense. Charlotte writes that the coalition represents a “yearslong effort by the U.S. to organize its allies in the Middle East against the growing Iranian aerial threat.” She details how Saudi Arabia and the UAE passed along intelligence they had received from Iran to the U.S., making it possible to position our air defenses and coordinate with allies. She writes: “Israeli officials hope Saturday’s successful test of these budding strategic partnerships might help the country reverse the diplomatic progress lost after the outbreak of war on October 7.”

On the Mother of All Questions 

Jonah tries to answer a centuries-old question in his Friday G-File: How should we live? The question dominated the early 19th century as the Industrial Revolution kicked into gear and created a class of nouveau riche “that could not invoke divine right or God’s will to justify their status.” If wealth and status were not conferred divinely, why couldn’t everyone be wealthy? Such thinking gave rise to utopian visions from socialists and radical liberals. He segues into a discussion of zero-sum thinking—an economic benefit for one person is an economic loss for another—and how it relates to our politics. Zero-sum mindsets can affect people’s thinking on welfare, immigration, affirmative action, and other issues. And with this in mind, he then tries to answer the question of how we should live: “When we ask the social question, we agree to search for an answer that doesn’t exist,” he writes. “It’s a utopian question because the people who ask it demand a utopian answer. The answer to the political question is liberal democratic capitalism. And that means the only possible answer to the social question is plural. There is no one right answer because people are free to live as they see fit within the rules laid out by the liberal political order. The Amish answer to the social question is the right answer—for the Amish.”  

Here’s the best of the rest:

  • Donald Trump’s trial in Manhattan started this week, and a jury (plus six alternates) is in place. In The Collision, Sarah writes about what to look for when arguments get underway, and Michael discusses how Trump is trying to use the media circus to his advantage.
  • The Indiana Fever made Caitlin Clark the first pick in the WNBA draft on Monday, and the team will pay about $77,000 for her services during her rookie season. Given that NBA players make so much more, the usual suspects—including Joe Biden—complained about women not getting their “fair share.” Professor Kevin debunks those claims with an economics lesson everyone can understand.
  • Kevin also offered up a history lesson after Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz compared Marjorie Taylor Greene to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. “Neville Chamberlain made the wrong decision at the most important juncture of his public life,” he writes. “But he was an authentic statesman who put service over self, even at the cost of his reputation, personal fortune, and health. … Marjorie Taylor Greene is no Neville Chamberlain.” 
  • Gen Xers, rejoice! In Capitolism (🔒), Scott Lincicome has some data showing that we can ignore all the griping from millennials about how hard they have it. (Just kidding! Millennials are great.) He notes that the generation born between 1981 and 1996 has faced difficulties, but he also points out that some statistics about lower homeownership rates reflect social trends like delays in getting married and having children. And the good news is that things are not only getting better, millennials are in many ways better off at their age than previous generations.  
  • Pope Francis recently issued a document called Dignitas Infinita, or “Infinite Dignity,” labeling gender theory, abortion, and euthanasia as dire threats to human dignity. “It makes sense for Pope Francis to clarify the church’s position during a culturally turbulent age,” Emily Zanotti writes. “Sex and gender, and from there, marriage, are an integral part of the church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person.”
  • And the pods: On Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David French talk to Jack Goldsmith and Bob Bauer about their new book, After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency. Some more reading for you: On The Dispatch Podcast, Jamie interviews Carlos Lozada of the Washington Post about his new book, The Washington Book: How to Read Politics and Politicians. Meanwhile, Jonah welcomes Eli Lake to The Remnant for a hawkish conversation on the conflict between Israel and Iran.

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