In what would be a major setback for the War Party's increasingly desperate effort to perpetuate the proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson says he wants to break up President Biden's $106 billion funding request that combines controversial Ukraine aid with widely-supported funding for Israel.
Johnson told Fox News on Thursday that he's met with Biden and has informed White House officials that "our consensus among House Republicans is we need to bifurcate those issues." Reflecting growing Republican legislator skepticism about the Ukraine war -- and sagging support among citizens of all political stripes -- Johnson said, "We want to know what the object is there, what is the end game in Ukraine. The White House has not provided that."
Biden's $106 billion funding request, which packages aid to Ukraine and Israel with other vote-baiting allocations, was preceded by a rare Oval Office address in which Biden made the case for pouring more weapons and money into both countries. In addition to saying the aid was necessary to defend two democracies, Biden added a new spin to his Ukraine war pitch by saying the spending would be a boon to US arms manufacturers.
Tacking Israel aid to the Ukraine request is a political play: The great majority of both Republican and Democratic legislators would hate to be on the record as voting against Israel aid. Of the $106 billion, $61.4 billion would go to Ukraine -- where President Volodymyr Zelensky's much-hyped 2023 counteroffensive resulted in a net loss of territory to Russia -- and just $14.3 billion would end up Israel.
Combining Israel and Ukraine aid with money for open borders is a disgrace. It’s a way to provide political cover and more money for Biden’s disastrous policies.— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) October 26, 2023
It’s political malpractice and insults our voters. pic.twitter.com/aDodpN3CiD
Biden's combo package is also in danger in the Senate. On Thursday, a group of GOP senators introduced a stand-alone bill that would only authorize money for Israel, and none for Ukraine. “My colleagues and I firmly believe that any aid to Israel should not be used as leverage to send tens of billions of dollars to Ukraine,” said Kansas Senator Roger Marshall. He sponsored the Israel bill along with Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, Texas's Ted Cruz and Utah's Mike Lee.
That goes against the wishes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, like Biden, wants to leverage the Israel lobby's grip on legislators as a means of forcing his colleagues into voting for Ukraine money.
The practice of pushing all-in-one mega-bills in front of legislators for a straight up-or-down vote without amendments is one of the grievances that led to the ouster of former speaker Kevin McCarthy. By breaking up Biden's requests, new Speaker Johnson can also claim that he's moving the House toward better governance. We'll see how long that lasts.
Meanwhile, don't expect Johnson to exhibit hostility to Ukraine aid. "We can’t allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine because I don’t believe it would stop there,” Johnson told Sean Hannity on Fox News, apparently embracing the farcical notion that Russia would invade Eastern Europe if it's allowed to keep the Donbas.