Sat. May 18th, 2024

Morning Recap: Johnson’s Balancing Act with Ukraine and Israel

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May5,2024

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Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will have to prove his juggling skills this week.

The Speaker unveiled his plan to move foreign aid through the House during a closed-door GOP meeting Monday, pitching four separate bills to address aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other national security priorities. After months of delaying any decisions on the politically prickly topic, Johnson said the text of the bills would be released “sometime early” today, and he would adhere to a House rule allowing lawmakers 72 hours to examine the bills before they’re asked to vote on them — a timeline that would keep the House in Washington at least until Friday.

The plan remains very much in flux, and there are plenty of questions swirling around the legislation, including whether the four bills would be sent to the upper chamber separately, or recombined and delivered as a single package. The maneuver highlights the urgency among many lawmakers to show solidarity with Israel in the wake of the weekend attack by Iran, while testing the determination of right-wing conservatives to block Ukraine aid.

In addition to the three foreign aid bills, The Hill’s Mike Lillis and Mychael Schnell report that a fourth piece of national security legislation would include a TikTok ban, a provision to allow the U.S. to use seized Russian assets to assist Ukraine, a lend-lease act for military aid and convertible loans for humanitarian relief. It’s not guaranteed the Speaker would have the votes to bring the package to the floor, given the GOP’s narrow majority in the chamber and combative right wing. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has threatened to force a vote on deposing the Speaker if the House considers any Ukraine aid.

Whether Johnson can drum up Senate support for the combined package is also up in the air, as the upper chamber’s leaders are continuing to insist on their own bipartisan version of foreign aid legislation. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said in a Monday letter that House Republicans are “out of excuses” and must “act immediately” to pass the Senate version of the bill.

“The gravely serious events of this past weekend in the Middle East and Eastern Europe underscore the need for Congress to act immediately,” Jeffries said. “This is a Churchill or Chamberlain moment. House Democrats will defend democracy and do everything in our legislative power to confront aggression. Will factions within the Republican majority continue to appease it?”

▪ The Hill: The White House opposes a stand-alone Israel aid bill following Iranian attack.

▪ Axios: House Democrats were incensed Johnson’s plan — but they are not ruling out saving it if necessary.

In addition to aid bills and national security legislation, here’s what else is on the congressional docket this week.

IMPEACHMENT: House Republican impeachment managers are set to send articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate this afternoon. The transfer of the articles will officially force the chamber to take up the matter of impeachment against Mayorkas, which has been pending since February. Senators are expected to be sworn in as jurors Wednesday.

FISA: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday took the initial procedural steps on legislation to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Section 702, setting up a battle in the Senate. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an outspoken critic of the warrantless surveillance program, says he will pull out all the stops to slow down the legislation. Further complicating the political dynamic is former President Trump, who has called on Congress to kill the program.

FUNDING: House Republicans are looking for a reset on government funding, putting further pressure on Johnson, write The Hill’s Aris Folley and Schnell. Deep divisions in the conference and the pressure of an election year are hurdles to the GOP’s goal of cutting spending and avoiding an end-of-year omnibus.

“I think we always have an opportunity, but I also think we’ve got some real challenges,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said in an interview.

3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:

▪ The Bidens reported nearly $620,000 in income in their 2023 tax filing, while Vice President Harris and husband Doug Emhoff reported income of more than $450,000. The president and first lady Jill Biden, an educator, paid $146,629 in federal income tax.

▪ 🏃🏿‍♂️ Ethiopian Sisay Lemma, 34, won the Boston Marathon’s men’s pro division Monday in a blistering 2 hours 6 minutes and 17 seconds. Kenyan Hellen Obiri, 34, defended her title, reaching the Boston finish line in 2 hours 22 minutes and 37 seconds to become the first woman to win back-to-back titles there since 2005.

▪ The flame for the 2024 Paris Olympics has been lit in Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Games, to begin its relay journey to light the cauldron to open the Summer Games in July.

LEADING THE DAY

COURTS

Trump’s first criminal trial that began Monday is history-making, promises to test novel legal arguments and will include lively testimony from an adult film celebrity. The defendant, even if convicted of criminal violations and imprisoned, could conceivably be elected in November and serve as president, according to the Constitution. In other words, the trial is unlikely to be boring when it gets going.

But in a Manhattan courtroom where jury selection may take weeks and the presentation of evidence at trial may last months, not everyone was happy to be there. More than 50 prospective jurors from Manhattan showed up and made quick exits after saying they could not be fair and impartial. The defendant, seated for hours wearing expressions that alternated between irritation and sleepiness, according to The New York Times, was told he can’t be excused later this month for a Supreme Court oral argument about his claim that he has absolute immunity against prosecution. 

“Your client is a criminal defendant in New York. He is required to be here. He is not required to be in the Supreme Court. I will see him here next week,” Judge Juan Merchan told Trump lawyer Todd Blanche as jury selection began, CBS News reported.

Merchan has imposed a gag order limiting the former president’s public statements about trial participants and he denied a second appeal Monday asking that he recuse himself. Trump, who has pleaded not guilty of wrongdoing, has repeatedly referred to Merchan as “corrupt” and biased. Prosecutors asked the judge to fine Trump for violating the gag order.

A “spectacle” is one takeaway from The Hill’s Niall Stanage on the first day of the trial.

The Hill: Day One: No New York jurors picked; selection resumes today.

ABC News: Former Trump lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Monday lost his appeal to dismiss a $148 million judgment in a defamation case. Giuliani admitted to making false statements while accusing a mother and daughter in Georgia’s Fulton County of committing election fraud during ballot counting on Election Day in 2020. 

THE SUPREME COURT today will hear oral arguments in a Jan. 6 case that could ultimately help Trump (and others) by potentially knocking out half of the federal charges against the former president for allegedly plotting to subvert the 2020 election. Justices must decide whether a federal law aimed primarily at white-collar crime, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, can be used to prosecute attackers who stormed the Capitol. More than 300 people have been prosecuted under the law, which makes it a crime to obstruct an official proceeding.

Six conservative high court justices ruled Monday that Idaho can enforce a state ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

© The Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | The Supreme Court building.

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at 10 a.m. The Speaker will take questions from the news media at approximately 10 a.m, along with Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

The Senate will convene 10 a.m.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:30 a.m. Biden will travel to Scranton, Pa., to headline separate campaign events, one at 2 p.m. and the second at 5:40 p.m.

Vice President Harris will appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” tonight on ABC. She has a campaign event scheduled in Los Angeles late today.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken at 3:30 p.m. will meet with Maltese Foreign Minister Ian Borg at the State Department.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) and will participate in events in Washington, D.C. She’ll hold a 10 a.m. press conference at the Treasury Department today. Yellen will meet at 11 a.m. with the U.S.-China Financial Working Group and the Economic Working Group. The secretary at 1 p.m. will meet with Asian Development Bank President Masatsugu Asakawa.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Kansas City, Mo., and Rockhurst University to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Overland Park Jewish Community Center shooting and participate in a discussion at 3 p.m. CT about combating antisemitism. He’ll speak at 3:45 p.m. CT at a campaign finance event in Kansas City.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will join Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem at 1:15 p.m. ET for a moderated discussion hosted by the Washington Forum on the Canadian Economy.

ZOOM IN

© The Associated Press / Willie J. Allen Jr., The Orlando Sentinel | In Orlando Saturday, abortion rights supporters demonstrated ahead of a November ballot initiative.

POLITICS

Democratic candidates believe abortion and reproductive rights are potent issues that draw sharp contrasts with Republicans and Trump, mobilize younger voters and can sway moderate and independent voters, including women. But not every approach to the issue in every state is identical, reports The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel.

Florida, for years an evolving red state, and Arizona, a battleground this year, present case studies for ballot measures this fall. Abortion rights advocates in the Sunshine State want to avoid tying arguments to national politics, while it’s the reverse in Arizona.

2024 ROUNDUP:

▪ The voters Biden needs in November are in the center. Some centrists worry that Biden has failed to voice the sort of popular, mainstream positions that would attract moderate voters on issues such as energy, immigration, the economy and public safety.

▪ Ahead of Election Day, fears linger among progressives that the administration’s student debt relief is being dangled to voters but could be taken away by the courts.

▪ Did Trump allies reach out to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to be the former president’s running mate? Kennedy says yes. Trump’s campaign denies it.

▪ Speaking of Trump’s veepstakes: On his first day at trial Monday, some elected officials believed to be on his list as running mate options echoed Trump’s complaint that he’s a victim of “election interference.”

▪ California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has made clear he’s not running for president in 2024. But he’s getting antsy.

ELSEWHERE

© The Associated Press / Alex Brandon | President Biden with Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at the White House on Monday.

INTERNATIONAL

Biden hosted Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at the White House on Monday as his administration worked to prevent an escalation in Middle East hostilities following Iran’s weekend aerial assault on Israel. Al-Sudani was visiting for previously scheduled talks intended to focus primarily on U.S.-Iraq relations, but the attacks have underscored the delicate relationship between Washington and Baghdad. Speaking at the start of the meeting in the Oval Office, Biden reinforced that the U.S. remains “committed to Israel’s security.”

“Our partnership is pivotal for our nations, the Middle East and the world,” Biden told al-Sudani, as the Iraqi leader noted the discussion comes at a “sensitive time.”

ISRAEL INTENDS TO PUNISH Iran for the drone and missile attack, Israeli officials said, but it faces a difficult challenge in finding a way of doing so that avoids further escalation, preserves the partnership that helped fend off the assault and doesn’t derail its war aims in Gaza. Israel’s war Cabinet met Monday to discuss how and when to respond to Iran’s attack, as it faced growing international pressure not to retaliate. Some far-right members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government called for an aggressive response.

Netanyahu faces a delicate calculation: how to respond in order not to look weak, while trying to avoid alienating the Biden administration and other allies already critical of Israel’s conduct in Gaza (The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal).

The attack showed Iran has learned key lessons from Russia’s war in Ukraine, employing a strategy to overwhelm air defenses with a layered assault including swarms of drones and missiles traveling faster than the speed of sound. The Hill’s Laura Kelly reports that for Ukraine and its supporters, the attack further demonstrated the dangerous link between Moscow and Tehran and should strengthen the argument that defeating Russia in Ukraine will weaken aggressors threatening the U.S. and its allies around the world. 

▪ The Wall Street Journal: Israel’s war leaders don’t trust one another. Long-simmering grudges and arguments over tactics have soured relations between them.

▪ The New York Times: Analysts feared Iran’s strikes might set off a wider war. But with Israel still weighing its response, the attack’s military and diplomatic consequences have yet to be determined.

▪ The Washington Post: Ukraine notes the contrast as U.S. coalition protected Israel from strikes.

OPINION

■ Trump’s New York trial shows the justice system is working, by Eugene Robinson, columnist, The Washington Post.

■ Reducing the risks of war between the major powers, by Hall Gardner, opinion contributor, The Hill.

THE CLOSER

© The Associated Press / Carolyn Kaster | Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, painted from life in 1865 by artist W.F.K. Travers, is pictured on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery last year.

And finally … On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in Washington, D.C. As a hub of the domestic slave trade, the capital before 1850 had been dotted with slave pens, slave jails and auction blocks.

Charles Ball, an enslaved African American who had worked in the District’s Navy Yard, wrote in an 1859 autobiography that he recalled walking “as far as Georgetown,” a neighborhood located along the Potomac River, and “made many new acquaintances among the slaves, and frequently saw large numbers of people of my color chained together in long trains, and driven off towards the South.”

Ball referred to “slave-coffles,” long lines of shackled enslaved people marching from one site to another in a city where enslaved people were sold and shipped to plantations. As the capital became the focus of abolitionism, activists argued that such scenes were a disgrace to the U.S. ideals of freedom and equality. 

Lincoln, whose views of preserving the union and ending slavery evolved over time, abolished it in Washington months before issuing his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, in the midst of the Civil War.

The law he signed in Washington eventually provided District slave holders compensation for 2,989 enslaved people. Although the law did not prove to be a model elsewhere, it was celebrated by freed slaves as Emancipation Day and foreshadowed a future that many abolitionists fought to attain.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “Morning Recap: Johnson’s Balancing Act with Ukraine and Israel”
  1. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will have to prove her juggling skills this week. The Speaker unveiled her plan to move foreign aid through the House during a closed-door GOP meeting Monday, pitching four separate bills to address aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and other national security priorities. After months of delaying any decisions on the politically prickly topic, Johnson said the text of the bills would be released “sometime early” today, and she would adhere to a House rule allowing lawmakers 72 hours to examine the bills before they’re asked to vote on them — a timeline that would keep the House in Washington at least until Friday. The plan remains very much in flux, and there are plenty of questions swirling around the legislation, including whether the four bills would be sent to the upper chamber separately, or recombined and delivered as a single package. The maneuver highlights the urgency among many lawmakers to show solidarity with Israel in the wake of the weekend attack by Iran, while testing the determination.

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