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White House accuses Speaker Johnson of ‘benefiting Putin and the Ayatollah’

The White House on Friday argued Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is benefiting U.S. adversaries of Iran and Russia by refusing to bring a national security funding package up for a vote in the House.

“President Biden is standing up to Iran. But where is Speaker Johnson’s supposed commitment not to ‘appease Iran’ in all this? Nowhere. Instead, his inaction is benefiting Putin and the Ayatollah,” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates wrote in a memo shared with reporters.

Bates cited evidence that Iran may be close to providing ballistic missiles to Russia in its war against Ukraine to make the case that funding for the Ukrainians would help combat both Moscow and Tehran. The White House has said there would be a “swift and severe” response from the international community if Iran proceeds.

Johnson had previously criticized the Biden administration for what he called a slow response to the attack on a U.S. base in Jordan that killed three American service members.

“Even though Speaker Johnson has claimed in front of TV cameras that he recognizes the dire need to help Ukraine, and despite his aforementioned claims to oppose ‘appeasing’ Iran, his actions say differently,” Bates wrote.

“Instead, Speaker Johnson is siding with Putin, the regime in Tehran, and his perceived intra-conference political objectives over the wellbeing of the American people, Ukraine, and NATO,” he added.

Bates also warned of the potential consequences for other NATO allies if Russian is able to overrun Ukraine while Congress fails to pass additional assistance for Kyiv. The Biden administration in December used up the last of the congressionally approved aid to Ukraine and has for months been pleading with Congress to authorize additional funding.

Johnson’s office fired back on Friday, arguing in a statement to The Hill the Biden administration “has removed Iranian proxies from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, relaxed sanctions on Iranian oil exports, telegraphed an underwhelming military response to the Houthi attack that claimed the lives of 3 U.S. soldiers, took steps to give Iran billions of dollars, and weeks ago blocked critical aid to Israel which currently faces threats from Iranian backed terrorist organizations.”

“Meanwhile, the Administration’s recent ban on LNG export terminals forces Europe to now purchase natural gas not from America but from Russia which is state owned and directly funds the war machine,” Taylor Haulsee, a spokesperson for Johnson, added.

Friday’s memo was the latest broadside from the White House against Johnson and House Republicans over their refusal to pass additional aid for Ukraine despite bipartisan support in the Senate. The White House has hammered House Republicans for going on a two-week recess instead of taking up the Senate bill, which also included funding for Israel and Indo-Pacific allies.

The Senate earlier this month unveiled a bipartisan border security package paired with national security funds for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies. But Johnson declared that bill dead on arrival in the House, instead urging Biden to take executive action regarding the border.

The Senate last week overwhelmingly passed national security funding without the border provisions, but Johnson again signaled the bill would not receive a vote in the House because it lacked desired border provisions.

The Speaker has said he would like to meet with Biden to discuss funding priorities, but the White House has been cool to the idea.

Updated at 12:37 p.m.

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