Speaker Mike Johnson is getting squeezed from all sides on Ukraine aid

The Senate voted to move forward on the $95 billion aid bill for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan in the first-ever Super Bowl Sunday session. The vote was 67-27, meaning that it will easily pass in the Senate when they finally get to it. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been up to his usual obstructing tricks, refusing to agree to shortening the debate time on the bill. That means it will likely not pass until Wednesday, when all the pressure will be on House Speaker Mike Johnson to either get this bill done or prove his MAGA mettle and block it.

There’s a threat looming over Johnson from Georgia’s contribution to the dumbing-down of the nation, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has said she will bring a motion to oust him as speaker if he puts Ukraine aid on the floor. In aid of Greene’s MAGA cause, GOP Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio is circulating a conspiracy theory that the bill contains a setup to impeach Donald Trump again if he is reelected in November. The theory goes that because the bill extends aid into 2025, Trump would either be forced to honor it or face another impeachment if he cancels it.

That’s an implicit warning to House Republicans—and Johnson—to stay on Trump’s good side and block the aid. But Johnson is getting plenty of pressure from the pro-Ukraine side, including from a powerful Republican.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, recently led a delegation of members to Ukraine, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to assure him that he had allies among Republicans in Congress and that U.S. aid would continue. He returned with an urgent message for Johnson and Congress. The situation is so bad, he told Politico, that Ukrainian troops “are already rationing munitions” and “are unable to fully defend themselves on the battlefield.”

“We have to get this done,” he continued. “This is no longer an issue of, ‘When do we support Ukraine?’ If we do not move, this will be abandoning Ukraine.” He predicts that there will be  “overwhelming support” for the bill in the House, adding, “The speaker will need to bring it to the floor.”

It isn’t an empty threat, because Democrats have the tool to go over Johnson’s head to put the bill on the floor with a discharge petition, and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries is ready to use it. “House Democrats are prepared to use every available legislative tool to make sure we get comprehensive national security legislation over the finish line,” Jeffries said during the annual House Democrats’ strategy retreat last week. He called on Johnson to “move to consider parallel national security legislation immediately.”

The discharge petition needs 218 signatures to be put on the floor. That means as of now, they need six Republicans to join them. That math could change a little depending on the result of tomorrow’s special election in New York to replace expelled Republican George Santos. If Democrat Tom Suozzi wins, Democrats will need just five Republicans, and it sounds like Turner might be willing to be one of them. 

So might Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon. “I know we need to get aid to Israel quickly, and it’s in our national security interests to keep Ukraine independent and help Ukrainians defeat Russia’s barbaric invasion by sending them military weapons,” he told Politico last week. “I’ll work with the likeminded folks and the Speaker to determine what is best way to move forward.”

There is strong support for Ukraine even among House Republicans—101 of them voted for it as recently as September. If this new package makes it to the floor, it will surely pass. Which means the stunningly incompetent Johnson has a tough decision to make: stand with Ukraine or stand with Trump?

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