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Speaker Johnson fires warning shot as Senate prepares to vote on Ukraine aid

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) fired a warning shot at the Senate’s foreign aid package Monday night, criticizing the $95.3 billion supplemental as the upper chamber inches closer to a final vote on the legislation.

In a statement, Johnson slammed the package for excluding border security provisions — ”the Senate’s foreign aid bill is silent on the most pressing issue facing our country” — and suggested that he will not bring it to the floor for a vote if it clears the upper chamber.

“[In] the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters,” Johnson wrote. “America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.”

The criticism from Johnson came minutes before the Senate advanced the foreign aid supplemental — which includes funding for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies — in a series of three procedural votes.

The Speaker’s Monday night statement marks the second time this month that he has thrown cold water on a foreign aid package crafted in the Senate, raising more questions about the fate of Ukraine aid on Capitol Hill — a controversial matter in the Republican Party and, especially, the House GOP conference.

Former President Trump has urged Republican lawmakers to reject additional aid for Ukraine, in line with his “America First” mantra, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has threatened to bring a motion to vacate against Johnson if he brings Ukraine aid to the floor.

The Speaker for months has said that any aid for Ukraine must be paired with border security legislation, seen as a sweetener of sorts for GOP lawmakers skeptical of sending additional assistance to Kyiv.

But earlier this month — after a bipartisan group of senators struck a deal on border security legislation, which was meant to unlock Ukraine aid — Johnson declared the foreign-aid-plus-border-security package dead on arrival, arguing that the provisions would not help alleviate the situation at the southern border. Conservatives also slammed the legislation.

The GOP backlash thwarted the package — which Johnson on Monday said was “the right thing” — prompting Senate leaders to put a foreign aid bill on the floor without border security legislation.

Johnson, however, is now rejecting that legislation, demanding the Senate take up H.R. 2, the conservative border security bill House Republicans passed last year — which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) refused to bring it to the floor for a vote.

“House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border. The House acted ten months ago to help enact transformative policy change by passing the Secure Our Border Act, and since then, including today, the Senate has failed to meet the moment,” Johnson said.

The Speaker said instead of putting the foreign aid bill on the floor, the Senate “should have gone back to the drawing board to amend the current bill to include real border security provisions that would actually help end the ongoing catastrophe.”

Johnson has also called for accountability measures when discussing aid for Ukraine, and has asked the Biden administration to prove its end-game strategy in the ongoing war.

The Speaker’s dismissal of the Senate’s foreign aid bill comes as Ukrainian officials, the White House and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle sound the alarm about Kyiv needing more U.S. support as its war against Russia approaches the two-year mark.

His rejection of the Senate bill, however, does not mean the package is completely finished in the House.

Lawmakers could force the supplemental to the floor through a discharge petition, which requires support from a majority of the chamber — meaning bipartisan participation. Democrats have a “ripe” discharge from last year’s debt limit showdown that already has 213 signatures. Five more would be a majority of the chamber.

Some progressive lawmakers, though, are likely to remove their names from the petition if it is used to move the foreign aid package in protest of the inclusion of aid for Israel without conditions. That would mean more Republican signatures are needed — a heavy lift since signing a discharge petition while in the majority is a significant swipe at leadership.

Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said they have spoken with House lawmakers about using a discharge petition to move the foreign aid bill, according to news outlets.

Updated at 9:49 p.m.

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