US House Speaker promises to push for aid to Israel and Ukraine

Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week as he attempts the difficult task of winning House approval for a national security package that also includes funding for Ukraine.

The Republican, is already under immense political pressure from his fellow GOP lawmakers as he tries to stretch between. The Party’s divided support for helping Kyiv defend itself from Moscow’s invasion. The Republican speaker has sat for two months on a $95 billion supplemental package.

The attack by Iran on Israel early Sunday further ratcheted up the pressure on Johnson, but also gave him an opportunity to underscore the urgency of approving the funding.

Johnson told Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that he and Republicans “understand the necessity of standing with Israel” and he would try this week to advance the aid.

“The details of that package are being put together right now,” he said. “We’re looking at the options and all these supplemental issues.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a news conference also said that President Joe Biden held a phone call Sunday with the top Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, including Johnson. The New York Democrat said there was consensus “among all the leaders that we had to help Israel and help Ukraine, and now hopefully we can work that out and get this done next week.”

“It’s vital for the future of Ukraine, for Israel and the West,” Schumer said.

The White House said Biden “discussed the urgent need for the House of Representatives to pass the national security supplemental as soon as possible.”

The speaker has expressed support for legislation that would structure some of the funding for Kyiv as loans, pave the way for the US to tap frozen Russian central bank assets and include other policy changes. Johnson has pushed for the Biden administration to lift a pause on approvals for Liquefied Natural Gas exports and at times has also demanded policy changes at the US border with Mexico.

But currently, the only package with wide bipartisan support in Congress is the Senate-passed bill that includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby called on the speaker to put that package “on the floor as soon as possible.”

“We didn’t need any reminders in terms of what’s going on in Ukraine,” Kirby said on NBC. “But last night certainly underscores significantly the threat that Israel faces in a very, very tough neighbourhood.”

In an overnight address, Zelenskyy emphasised that Ukraine needs help from its allies with air defence, like Israel. 

“Modern aviation is proving its effectiveness, modern air defence systems are capable of protecting lives – this was demonstrated in the Middle East. The whole world sees what real defence is. It sees that it is possible. And the whole world saw that Israel was not alone in this defence. And when Ukraine says that its allies should not turn a blind eye to Russian missiles and drones, it means that they must act, and act strongly.”

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