US House speaker says he will try to pass Israel aid this week

By Thomson Reuters Apr 14, 2024 | 11:41 AM

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said on Sunday he would try to pass aid to Israel this week, after Iran’s mass drone and missile attack, but did not say whether the legislation would also include assistance for Ukraine and other U.S. allies.

Johnson, who is struggling to unify his fractious Republican majority and avoid an ouster threat, recounted two failed attempts to pass standalone aid for Israel.

“We’re going to try again this week, and the details of that package are being put together right now. We’re looking at the options, and all these supplemental issues,” Johnson told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” program.

Johnson’s office declined to provide further details.

Johnson spoke after House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said the House will respond to Iran’s attack with “legislation that supports our ally Israel and holds Iran and its terrorist proxies accountable,” without offering specifics.

Johnson was expected to meet later on Sunday with lawmakers focused on national security issues, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul.

Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles in its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory this weekend, raising the threat of open warfare between the two Middle East foes that could drag in the United States.

The White House and top Democrats and Republicans in the Senate called on Johnson to move forward without delay on a $95 billion bipartisan Senate-passed package that would provide $14.1 billion in aid to Israel and $60 billion in assistance to Ukraine.

“They should put it on the floor as soon as possible,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

Johnson has refused to take up the Senate bill. Instead, he has sought to craft his own legislation, with Ukraine aid structured as a loan at the behest of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“He and I are 100% united on these bigger items,” Johnson said of Trump, after meeting with the former president on Friday in Florida.

Many of Trump’s House allies oppose aid to Ukraine, and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has threatened to oust Johnson as speaker over issues including his support for Ukraine.

Republican allies of Ukraine had expected a larger supplemental bill with assistance for Kyiv to come to the floor this week.

McCaul told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that Johnson is committed to bringing a broader aid package to the floor, but stopped short of saying when that would happen. “My preference is this week,” he said.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Leslie Adler)