Finally: Dems Help Johnson Pass Ukraine, Israel Aid in the House


Critical military aid to Ukraine is expected to reach the embattled country within days after the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday overwhelmingly passed a $95 billion foreign aid package after six months of stalling tactics by the Republican “chaos caucus.”

Opposition by a couple dozen GOP House members against helping Ukraine resist Russia’s two-year-old invasion was believed to have cost thousands of lives among the Ukrainian defense forces, noted frustrated supporters while praising the ultimate resolution of the standoff.

The House contingent pressing former president Donald Trump’s inexplicable agenda in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin also left U.S. allies around the world badly shaken. Washington’s failure to assist Ukrainians’ fight against the Kremlin’s assault on a sovereign and independent neighbor was a breach of its oft-stated commitment.

The bills passed in an unusually productive House session also drew strong bipartisan support for $26 billion for Israel to replenish its air-defense systems. More than $9 billion of that assistance is for humanitarian assistance to the Gaza strip where six months of relentless Israeli bombardment has killed 34,000 in the Palestinian enclave, mostly women and children.

Defense aid of $8 billion to Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific U.S. allies passed by the largest measure, 385-34 with one abstention. That funding is aimed at strengthening Taiwan’s defenses ahead of mainland China’s Communist government vow to “reunite” the rebellious province by 2027. The aid will also boost U.S. naval and air operations in the Pacific protecting allies from Beijing’s aggressive attempts to control disputed territories and resources in the South China Sea.

A fourth measure passed with bipartisan support will force the social media platform Tik-Tok to be sold by its Chinese parent company ByteDance within nine months or face a nationwide ban.

The six-month logjam of performative opposition in Congress was broken only a week ago when House Speaker Mike Johnson agreed to bring up the foreign aid package for individual votes on the measures’ beneficiaries. Democrats compromised on Republican support for military aid to Israel with the $9 billion for starving and dislocated Gazan civilians. In exchange, Republicans outside of the pro-Russia faction agreed to support the Ukraine package, outvoting Trump’s fifth column in the lower house.

President Joe Biden hailed the long-delayed passage of aid to key U.S. allies as sending “a clear message about the power of American leadership on the world stage.” He thanked Johnson and the Democrats who had been pressing for support for Ukraine since the Senate passed its version of the bill last autumn.

“At this critical inflection point, they came together to answer history’s call, passing urgently needed national security legislation that I have fought for months to secure,” Biden said in a statement issued shortly after the House voted 311-112 to pass the Ukraine aid.

The bills were delivered to the Senate for approval of the amended package. Biden urged the upper chamber to quickly send the measure to his desk so he can sign it into law and get the weapons and equipment to Ukraine for “their urgent battlefield needs.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proclaimed his country “grateful to the United States House of Representatives, both parties, and personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track. Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it.” 

Minutes after the bills passed, Johnson addressed a gaggle of reporters outside the House chamber to assert that he made the decision to “do the right thing” in responding to the “dangerous times” the country finds itself in with faraway wars raging that threaten to draw in U.S. forces.

“It’s an old military adage but we would rather send bullets to conflicts overseas than our own boys,” Johnson said.

The House speaker also sought to justify the long-delayed action by claiming the foreign aid bills as passed on Saturday were far better for their renegotiated elements of the original Senate bill. He noted that a Democrat-backed measure that would have soon come to the House floor on a discharge petition lacked the Republican-inserted conditions for more Ukraine accountability of how the U.S. aid is used and a demand that the Biden Administration provide Congress with its strategy and expectations of U.S. aid in Ukraine’s defense of its sovereignty and independence.

Three right-wing Republicans had threatened to call a vote to “vacate” the House speaker for defying their aims to stop aiding Ukraine in its existential defense against Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Johnson had previously voted against aid to Kyiv since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 2022. He stood with the Trump-aligned “freedom caucus” until a week ago when he visited Mar-a-Lago and returned with a reported agreement by the former president to let Ukraine aid come to the floor for a vote as long as some of the money be designated as a loan. That amendment sets $9 billion of the $61 billion for eventual repayment but with the option for the president to call it due or cancel the obligation – a choice that will be up to whoever is in the White House after the November election.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance will provide more advanced air defenses to Ukraine after urgent pleas from Kyiv for the means to repel Russia’s escalating attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure far from the frozen battlefields.

Much of the aid for Ukraine will be to the benefit of the U.S. economy and its military-industrial complex will be producing the sophisticated air defenses needed to backfill equipment already deployed in NATO countries in Europe. Stoltenberg said those weapons are ready to be sent to Ukraine within days.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder also confirmed that only Saturday’s votes were holding back provision of the weapons Ukraine needs.

“We would like very much to be able to rush the security assistance in the volumes we think they need to be able to be successful,” he told reporters ahead of the authorizing votes.

Retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO commander, told MSNBC the congressional dithering is estimated to have cost Ukraine 5% of its territory, thousands of their soldiers’ lives and the capability of the country’s electrical grid to provide adequate power to Ukraine’s 44 million population.

Putin’s imperialist designs on Ukraine turned violent a decade ago when he sent paratroopers to seize Crimea and Russian mercenaries to take control of large swaths of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces that border southern Russia. The Kremlin’s initial invasion of those southeastern Ukraine territories bogged down into a stalemate until Putin deployed 190,000 Russian troops to surround Ukraine in early 2022 and defied United Nations and Western democratic warnings against waging the first major armed conflict in Europe since World War II.

Putin has been indicted in absentia for war crimes in Ukraine by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. He risks arrest and extradition to the court’s prison if he travels to any of the 124 countries that recognize the ICC’s global jurisdiction. Putin has not left Russia since the indictment a year ago except to make unannounced visits to Belarus and North Korea.

Carol J Williams
Carol J Williams
Carol J. Williams is a retired foreign correspondent with 30 years' reporting abroad for the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press. She has reported from more than 80 countries, with a focus on USSR/Russia and Eastern Europe.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.