Speaker Johnson Says Ukraine Funding ‘Not Abandoned’ After Rejecting Senate Border-Ukraine Package

Speaker’s latest Ukraine comments come amid controversy over a standalone bill.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said on Feb. 6 that funding for Ukraine has “not been abandoned,” but questions for the Biden administration linger.

This development comes as the House GOP has raised issues with the $118.3 billion bipartisan Senate supplemental bill. The bill includes $60 billion in funding for Ukraine amid its war with Russia and $14.1 billion for Israel amid its latest conflict with terrorist group Hamas. It also incorporates immigration and border measures that have been points of contention for congressional Republicans. Mr. Johnson has stated that the supplemental is dead on arrival in the House.

“We’ll talk about the Ukraine measure going forward. That’s not been abandoned,” Mr. Johnson told reporters.

“But there’s a lot more work that needs to be done with regard to what the answers that the White House needs to provide us: End game, strategy, accountability for the funding, all of these very specific details that the House is required to consider when we make such heavy decisions and we‘ll continue that,” he said. “We’ll continue seeking the answers from the White House and we’ll process it as we go.”

Mr. Johnson has repeatedly expressed support for funding for Ukraine. In November, he said that funding for the Eastern European country, in addition to Israel, is a “priority.”

“Of course, we can’t allow Vladimir Putin to march through Europe,” said Mr. Johnson.

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“We understand the necessity of assisting there,” he continued. “What we’ve said is that if there is to be additional assistance to Ukraine—which most members of Congress believe is important—we have to also work on changing our own border policy.”

Nonetheless, the Ukraine funding appears to be in jeopardy for now as congressional Republicans, including Mr. Johnson, have expressed opposition to the supplemental.

“I think the proposal is dead,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told reporters after leaving the GOP meeting.

Even Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the top Republican negotiator for the deal, suggested he might vote no in the procedural vote if his colleagues weren’t ready.

“So, that’s not the final passage,” he said. “That’s the beginning point.”

For months, Mr. Lankford, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) have worked behind closed doors to negotiate the package.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who came out in support of it, gave his blessing for his rank-and-file to vote against starting the debate on the bill. That vote is scheduled for Feb. 7.

House Republicans were quick to dismiss the legislation, with House Republican Conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) calling it “an absolute non-starter” that she said would “further incentivize thousands of illegals to pour in across our borders daily.”

Others in the House, including erstwhile moderate Republicans like Reps. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), also told The Epoch Times that they opposed the package.

Mr. Johnson’s latest Ukraine comments also come amid a controversy over a standalone bill that would give $17.6 billion in assistance to Israel amid its latest conflict with the terrorist group Hamas.

The 18-page bill includes but is not limited to $4 billion for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems, along with $1.2 billion for the Iron Beam defense system.

However, House Democrat leaders and the White House are opposed to the bill and it is likely to be rejected in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Moreover, it is not only Democrats opposed to the bill.

In a Feb. 4 statement, the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus said, “The most principled action taken to date by Speaker Johnson was the decision to pass a standalone, fully paid-for Israel funding bill in November, demonstrating our commitment to supporting our most important ally in a fiscally responsible manner.”

That bill, which was dead on arrival in the Senate, would have been paid for by offsetting $14.3 billion in IRS funding allocated under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. That was the same amount allocated for the Jewish state under the measure.

“It is extremely disappointing that the speaker is now surrendering to perceived pressure to move an even larger but now unpaid for Israel aid package, reversing course on his stance to require new supplemental spending to be offset,” said the Freedom Caucus.

The caucus cited America’s $34 trillion in debt, arguing that this bill would further increase the country’s financial deficit.

Instead, said the caucus, the funding for the Jewish state should be offset “by cutting funding for the United Nations, repealing the IRS expansion, rescinding the Department of Commerce ’slush fund,’ or ending leftist climate change tax credits.”

Joseph Lord contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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