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Democrats plead with Johnson to put Ukraine bill on floor: 'Lead, follow or get out of the way'

A bicameral group of Democrats pleaded to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to put the Senate’s foreign aid bill, which includes Ukraine aid, to a floor vote, emphasizing that the war-torn country desperately needs help to fend off the Russian invasion.  

A mix of House and Senate Democrats called on Johnson to move the Senate-passed Ukraine funding package that has stalled in the House, as Ukraine’s lack of ammunition and weapons has allowed Russia to take territory and gain momentum.

The lawmakers argued that Ukraine’s military deterioration could lead to American troops eventually being deployed into action, contending that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop at Ukraine.

“Ukrainians are bleeding and dying on the battlefield to preserve their democracy and freedom,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Wednesday, standing outside the Capitol in a press conference organized by veterans advocacy group VoteVets.

“And we will be bleeding and dying with our troops on a battlefield in Europe, if we fail to give Ukraine what it needs, because Putin will keep going,” added the senator, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

“So my plea to the speaker is, give us a vote,” he continued. “Allow the House to do its job, do your job, allow the House to vote as we did in the Senate, and the result will be as in the Senate and overwhelming bipartisan majority.” 

The intensifying pressure on Johnson comes after Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called on Johnson to do the same thing after meeting with President Biden and his staff on Tuesday, saying the fate of millions depends on the House Speaker’s decision.

The same day, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) made similar remarks, telling the House Speaker to put the Senate-passed bill on the floor and let members vote.

The Senate passed the $95 billion emergency spending package in February. The package also includes funds for Israel, Taiwan and provides humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza. Johnson has refused to take it up, demanding that Democrats first support hard-line reforms in U.S. immigration policy.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) encouraged her Republican colleagues in the House to convince Johnson to put the foreign assistance bill up for a vote.

“Make your voices heard, talk to the Speaker, be brave,” DeLauro said Wednesday during the press conference. “Stand up to your leadership and tell them, let us vote. That’s what our job is here is to vote. There is unquestionably a majority in the House supportive of Ukraine.” 

Democrats added that if Johnson is not willing to put the funding package on the floor, he can at least support a discharge petition revealed Tuesday.

The petition, sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the ranking member of the House Rules Committee, is a long-shot maneuver to force the vote on Ukraine aid. It takes 218 votes to force consideration of the foreign funding package, meaning some Republicans would need to join Democrats.

“He can follow the Democrats — we have put our discharge petition on the floor — get his members to sign on to this discharge petition so we can again support Ukraine or he can just get out of the way, and we’ll handle it,” Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) said Wednesday. 

There is another discharge petition circulating in the hallways of Capitol Hill. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) introduced his own discharge petition to force a vote on foreign funding and some border provisions that the GOP is seeking. Fitzpatrick’s version does not include humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

The foreign aid package that cleared the Senate also faces some resistance from progressive House members who want conditions to be put on the aid for Israel, as the ongoing war with Hamas has already killed more than 30,000 people in Gaza. 

On the GOP side, Ukraine has the support of many moderate and established members of the Republican conference, but is opposed by former President Trump and a number of his allies in Congress.

“Lead, follow or get out of the way,” Sherrill said. “That’s exactly what our Speaker has to do. He has to show some leadership and put this bill on the floor so we can get an up or down vote on it, and we know we have about 300 people generally in favor of this support to Ukraine.”

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