Friday, May 24, 2024

Israeli Aid Package to be Pushed by House Speaker Johnson. Also include Billions to Ukraine and Taiwan

HomeWARIsraeli Aid Package to be Pushed by House Speaker Johnson. Also include...

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bitter political donnybrook is brewing on Capitol Hill as House Speaker Mike Johnson barrels ahead with plans to ram through a colossal $95 billion wartime aid package for U.S. allies Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan this week.

The bombastic Louisiana Republican is under immense pressure from the White House and Democrat leaders to swiftly approve the emergency infusion of funds. But he faces a Herculean task wrangling enough support from his unruly GOP majority increasingly anxious about bankrolling the bottomless money pit in Ukraine.

Johnson’s high-stakes gambit comes after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unleashed a shocking drone and missile blitz against the U.S. ally Israel on Saturday. The audacious attack marked the most serious direct Iranian assault on Israeli soil in decades, leaving at least 10 civilians dead.

The brazen cross-border strikes immediately triggered a furious Israeli military response with waves of heavy airstrikes in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. Over 100 Tehran-backed militia fighters were killed as the longtime Middle East archenemies teetered on the brink of an all-out conflagration.

With tensions at a powder keg across the region, President Biden issued an furious denunciation of Iran’s “unacceptable, unjustified attack” on the key U.S. strategic partner Israel. He urgently convened an emergency virtual summit with G7 leaders on Sunday to coordinate a unified international response.

The shocking events added fresh impetus for Johnson and his Republican foot-draggers in the House to quit stalling and green light the $74 billion Ukraine/Israel aid bill already passed two weeks ago by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

That package allocates $14 billion to restock Israel’s defensive Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow anti-missile systems heavily depleted from around-the-clock interceptions during Iran’s ariel bombardment. It also contains roughly $60 billion to continue arming and financing Ukraine’s brave military fighting off Russia’s 14-month ongoing invasion.

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But in typical contrarian fashion, the obdurate Johnson seems determined to go his own way rather than quickly taking up the Senate-approved measure. The former Baptist pastor reportedly plans to unveil his own beefed-up version as early as Monday, with a host of potential poison-pill policy riders virtually guaranteed to alienate moderate Republicans and the entire Democratic minority caucus.

According to sources, Johnson’s package could swell past $95 billion with additional funds to replenish U.S. military equipment transferred to Taiwan as China ramps up threats of forced reunification. It may also include increased economic assistance for Ukraine as it continues battling Russian aggression with no end in sight.

Most controversially, Johnson is expected to condition a significant portion of Ukraine aid on future loans rather than direct spending grants. He has echoed former President Trump’s calls for Kyiv to “pay us back” over time – a non-starter for Democrats and even many Senate Republicans.

The mercurial speaker is also reportedly pushing the Biden administration to ease restrictions on approvals of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports and implement hardline border security measures like reviving construction on the southern border wall. Policy trade-offs sure to be dead-on-arrival for progressives.

Johnson’s bold brinksmanship underscored his penchant for swinging for the fences politically, no matter the odds stacked against him in the current Congress’s hyper-polarized environment. He has made abundantly clear he intends to shape any aid package well beyond the original Ukraine/Israel scope – raising the stakes exponentially in courting a high-risk, high-reward legislative showdown.

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“The details of that package are being put together right now,” Johnson said Sunday while promoting the loan concept and touting his 100% alignment with Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda. “We’re looking at the options and all these supplemental issues.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was having none of Johnson’s extraneous dealmaking, demanding the House instead “pass that supplemental immediately” to help Israel replenish its anti-missile shield after over $1 billion was expended fending off Iran’s bombardment.

“It’s vital for the future of Ukraine, for Israel and the West,” Schumer bluntly stated in New York.

Indeed, the White House warned Sunday that any extended delays by House Republicans risks undermining sustained U.S. military support for Ukraine as its forces are burning through weapons and ammunition stockpiles at an unsustainable rate in holding off Russia’s reinvigorated spring offensive.

To date, the U.S. has poured over $35 billion in military, economic and humanitarian assistance into the defense of Ukraine since Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion began in February 2022. Without fresh funding soon, officials fear Kyiv could be cutoff from critical resupplies as a pivotal counteroffensive campaign gets underway.

Yet despite the mounting stakes, Johnson appeared stubbornly determined to pick an uphill fight with Democrats and go his own way.

“He’s introduced the loan-lease concept, which is a really important one, and I think has a lot of consensus,” said Johnson of Trump’s influence and implying a split strategy was in the works.

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Bipartisan congressional sources said the pugnacious Speaker may seek to divide the package into separate standalone bills if he fails to reach consensus on a broader, comprehensive supplemental. That approach could potentially pave a quicker path to immediate approval for more straightforward non-controversial items like Israel’s defensive rearmament.

However it likely would further rile Democrats and hawkish GOP Ukraine hawks dead-set against attaching non-germane amendments or restructuring vital military and economic lifelines to Kyiv into future debt instruments.

With his governing trifecta of passing full-year federal appropriations, avoiding a government shutdown and salvaging any semblance of bipartisan cooperation on the line, Johnson is entering an extremely high-stakes stretch of turbulence ahead.

The unpredictable 58-year-old former lawyer now finds himself squarely at the vortex of domestic political dysfunction and seething geopolitical unrest overseas, with few potential off-ramps from the chaos.

One path could lead to racking up a signature policy achievement in rallying Western allies, cowing Iran, and continuing to back Ukraine’s fight for sovereignty and democracy. But threading that needle in today’s fractured Congress seems a long shot gambit destined for failure.

The alternative is a mortifying political debacle and deepening isolationist spiral for America on the world stage – along with the potential cherry on top of a government shutdown virtually ceding any hope of legislative relevance in his speakership.

Either way, Johnson is betting big on the sort of boldly stubborn maneuvering that’s made his name calling the shots for House Republicans. And the ultimate ramifications could not be higher as he stares down this defining crucible of statesmanship.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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