New Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told Republican senators Wednesday that U.S. military aid to Israel must move by itself, warning them that a larger package also funding Ukraine, Taiwan and the Southern border can’t pass the House.
Johnson also told GOP senators that he supports sending military aid to Ukraine, but cautioned it must be attached to reforms to improve border security.
He told senators that he plans to move an Israel aid bill and a Ukraine-border security bill sequentially, according to GOP senators who attended the meeting.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) said Johnson said he supports bringing a Ukraine assistance bill to the House floor but emphasized he wants to do “Israel first.”
“He’s for both of them, he’s just trying to do one at a time,” Tuberville told reporters after the meeting.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also said Johnson told senators he wants to pass a Ukraine assistance package after the House first passes $14.3 billion in assistance for Israel paid for by an equal cut to the Internal Revenue Service’s budget.
“He repeated what I think he said on television shows, which is that he thinks there needs to be another Ukraine aid package and he wants to do that. He emphasized that from his perspective of his majority he said he has to separate them. He cannot get his majority to pass them together,” Hawley said.
“He just said over and over, ‘Listen for me, it’s just numbers. We cannot do them together,” Hawley said, recalling the discussion. “He wants to do Israel first and then he said their next order of business would actually be Ukraine-border [security.]”
Johnson also told senators that he wants to pass at stopgap funding bill lasting into 2024 to avoid the possibility of a government shutdown later this year. Hawley said he floated the idea of a stopgap lasting until March or April of next year.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) did not speak at the meeting or attempt to rebut Johnson’s argument in favor of moving the Israel and Ukraine funding separately, several senators said.
McConnell has repeatedly argued, privately and publicly, in favor of moving the four pillars of President Biden’s foreign aid request — funding for Israel, Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific and border security — as one package.