Fri. May 31st, 2024

Senate Democrats open to Speaker Johnson’s foreign aid plan, but landmines loom

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May24,2024

Senate Democrats say they’re open to the possibility of backing the foreign aid proposal emerging from the House, even as they raise concerns about potential landmines in Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) plan.

Democrats — and a number of Senate Republicans — have loudly called for Johnson to take up the national security supplemental that passed the upper chamber with a wide, bipartisan vote two months ago, saying it would be the fastest way to get aid to allies like Ukraine and Israel.

But Johnson, who is facing a right-wing mutiny and a threat of being removed via a motion to vacate, this week announced his own blueprint.

Democrats are by no means ecstatic about Johnson’s maneuver, but they seem prepared to accept it to help Kyiv’s beleaguered forces.

“Nothing that goes on in the House makes any sense,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. “But if that’s a way that the Speaker is going to get aid to Ukraine in front of House members, who by a large majority would support it … then OK.” 

“But get it done fast. [Ukraine is] running out of ammunition,” Warren continued. 

He proposed individual bills to give aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, with a fourth aimed at banning TikTok that could include a potpourri of GOP-backed ways to pay for the Ukraine aid. All of those would be passed one by one in the chamber before being bundled and sent to the Senate as one larger item. 

The text of the four bills hadn’t been released as of print time, but a number of items are already concerning Senate Democrats. Headlining that list is the possible elimination or minimization of humanitarian assistance for Gaza and other hot spots around the world. 

The legislation the Senate passed in February gave $9.2 billion for food, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid for Gaza, Ukraine and other affected areas. Democrats on Tuesday indicated a cut to that number could force them to spurt the House’s offer.

“That would be an enormous problem for our conference,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) told The Hill. “Humanitarian assistance is a real deal breaker I would think.” 

Another big potential concern for Democrats, and some Republicans, is the possibility of reducing the total amount of Ukraine aid from the $60 billion the Senate allocated.

Top backers of Kyiv are quick to note that the country is running toward empty on ammunition and is being forced to ration bullets and other war materials to keep up the fight against Russia. That was on display last week as Ukraine was unable to stop an airstrike by Russian forces that destroyed the biggest power plant in the greater Kyiv region.

According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Russia fired 11 missiles toward the Trypilska power plant, with Ukrainian air defenses downing the first seven. The rest ultimately destroyed the plant. 

“Why? Because we had zero missiles. We ran out of all missiles,” Zelensky told PBS NewsHour earlier this week. 

“I can tell you, frankly, without this support, we will have no chance of winning,” he added. 

Senators squarely behind Kyiv agree the aid is necessary and a lesser amount won’t be good enough to help defeat Russian forces, but say they may OK the bill if the reduction is minor and key items don’t differ substantially from the February supplemental.

“Have the needs of Ukraine for their defense gone down? No, they’ve gone up. Has the need for us to invest in our own defense industrial base to increase the manufacturing and supply of munitions gone down? No, in fact it’s gone up,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said. 

“At this point, it is urgent that we deliver aid and scale to Ukraine,” he said. “As long as it is in essence the same as the Senate supplemental and they tweak some items on the margins about the REPO Act and so forth, I think it is long overdue.” 

There are also questions about the TikTok portion of fourth bill Johnson wants to move. Senators in recent weeks have been all over the map on how to proceed on TikTok–related legislation and whether to target the social media giant specifically or to go more broad with any potential legislative action.

The discussion around the Israel issue has also changed in the two months since the Senate advanced the $95 billion supplemental aid bill. Democrats have become increasingly upset with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the war with Hamas in Gaza, and some have signaled support for conditions to be placed on aid to Israel.

That chatter became even louder in recent weeks following the Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers with the charity group World Central Kitchen in Gaza. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters earlier in the week that “many” Senate Democrats “would have a difficult time voting” for a bill that doesn’t have any conditions on aid.

But other Democrats indicated that such conditions, which were not included in the Senate bill, wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

For now, the Senate is waiting to see what Johnson’s next move is. Some lawmakers are keeping their powder dry on the bill as they await the final text and to see what the House can do by this weekend. 

They are also wondering whether they will even have the chance to act given the chaos Johnson is staring down on his right-flank and the high-wire act he’s attempting to pull off to pass all four bills. 

“I don’t know. … We’re all over the place here,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). “They’re all over the world over there.”

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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2 thoughts on “Senate Democrats open to Speaker Johnson’s foreign aid plan, but landmines loom”
  1. Senate Democrats are cautiously considering Speaker Johnson’s foreign aid plan. It seems like a risky move, but if it helps provide aid to Ukraine quickly, then perhaps it’s worth a shot. Let’s hope they act fast before Ukraine runs out of ammunition.

  2. I think Senator Warren’s cautious approach towards Speaker Johnson’s foreign aid plan is wise. It’s crucial to prioritize getting aid to Ukraine swiftly given the urgent situation. Hopefully, the details of the proposed bills will address the concerns raised and provide much-needed assistance to our allies.

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