Editorial: Speaker Johnson’s Ukraine aid bill better late than never

by Admin
Editorial: Speaker Johnson's Ukraine aid bill better late than never

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has been maddeningly slow in pushing the House to approve badly needed aid for Ukraine as it resists Russian aggression. But this week he said he would move forward on separate measures that would provide aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan along with a fourth bill that includes the so-called REPO for Ukrainians Act providing for the diversion of seized Russian assets to Ukraine.

The proposals, which include about $61 billion for Ukraine, are similar in scope to a bill passed by the Senate in February. Assuming that they aren’t saddled with crippling amendments, these measures should be approved by the House in a vote expected on Saturday. Significantly, President Biden has endorsed the package.

Given the dire situation in Ukraine, where the nation is running out of munitions to fight off the Russian invasion, it would have been preferable if the House had expeditiously approved the Senate-passed bill. But Johnson has had to reckon with opposition from members of his conference, some of whom want aid to Ukraine to be linked to measures to secure America’s Southern border. Johnson said that there would be a separate new border-security bill.

Johnson also has had to contend with threats that he might be targeted for removal by some far-right members in his party. This week Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) signed on to a motion by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to “vacate the chair,” the parliamentary maneuver that was used to depose former Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. (Massie also called on Johnson to resign.)

To his credit, Johnson said that “my philosophy is you do the right thing and you let the chips fall where they may.” He added that “if I operated out of fear over a motion to vacate, I would never be able to do my job.”

It’s easier for Johnson to take that position because he can count on Democratic votes for the aid package and perhaps even for keeping the speaker’s chair. But that probably would have been the case if he had endorsed the Senate-passed bill rather than wasted time trying to come up with with “innovations” that might placate some of the Republican hard-liners.

But, better late than never, the speaker has moved to help Ukraine defend itself, which will send the message to Vladimir Putin that Russian aggression in Ukraine or elsewhere will not be tolerated. The House should swiftly approve aid so that the Senate can act and Biden can affix his signature.

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