Advertisement

House Republicans will pass Ukraine aid after backing down on border demand

House Republican leadership appears to be officially backing down from their demand for lawmakers to address border security before any further aid was passed to support Ukraine in its war against a Russian invasion.

The news was made on Thursday at the House Republican retreat, with Speaker Mike Johnson telling reporters that bills to further fund both Ukraine’s defence and Israel’s military effort against Hamas would be brought up separately in the coming weeks. There was no indication that Republicans would continue baulking at the idea of passing either of them without first striking some kind of deal on immigration reform or border security that could pass both chambers of Congress.

In December of last year, Mr Johnson had made that demand explicit, telling the White House in a letter: “[S]upplemental Ukraine funding is dependent upon enactment of transformative change to our nation’s border security laws”.

But legislation that would have at least made an effort at reaching that “transformative change” died in the Senate after House Republicans made clear that the bill, a bipartisan compromise hammered out by negotiators from both parties with GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s blessing, was dead on arrival in the lower chamber. The legislation would have allowed President Joe Biden to shut down the US asylum intake system were daily illegal border crossings to pass a certain threshold. Donald Trump’s demand for Republicans to kill the bill to prevent his opponent from scoring a political victory in an election year is widely credited with much of the GOP opposition in the House.

The news on Thursday is a reversal of Mr Johnson’s previous stance and a sign that he could face newfound resistance from the far right in the months ahead.

One member of his caucus, Marjorie Taylor Greene, as recently as January said that she would trigger a vote on a motion to remove Mr Johnson from his position as speaker if he were to put a bill to fund Ukraine’s military on the House floor.

“We can’t fund Ukraine,” she told NBC News, adding that it was “an absolute no-go .... a reason to vacate.”

Mr Johnson could be in for a tough political fight if Ms Greene or another Republican brings a motion to vacate against him; the GOP’s majority in the House is now down to just five votes, thanks to the sudden resignation announcement of Rep Ken Buck.