Hardline Republicans balk at US Speaker’s Ukraine aid plan

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US House Speaker Mike Johnson’s plan to hold votes on funding for Ukraine and Israel faced a growing threat as members of his Republican party revived a bid to remove him from office.

Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie on Tuesday said he would join Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, another firebrand Republican and Donald Trump ally, in pushing forward a “motion to vacate” Johnson from the speakership.

Johnson “should pre-announce his resignation” so a new Speaker could be selected, Massie said. Greene said on X that Johnson was “serving Democrats” and throwing her party into chaos by “going to fund foreign wars”.

The comments came less than 24 hours after Johnson unveiled a plan for votes on funding for Ukraine, Israel, and other US allies, a potential breakthrough after months of Republican opposition to new aid for Kyiv.

But the threat to remove Johnson also puts his plan for foreign aid in peril, just as political and military leaders in Kyiv say its forces are running out of ammunition and funds in their two-year-long war to repel Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Johnson vowed to fight on for the bills, which could be put to a vote within days — although members of Congress were still awaiting publication of the draft texts on Tuesday.

“It is in my view an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion, when we are simply here trying to do our jobs. It is not helpful to the cause, it is not helpful to the country,” he said.

Johnson, speaking just days after Iran launched its aerial attack on Israel, said he was a “wartime Speaker”, adding: “I didn’t anticipate that this would be an easy path.”

The Speaker, a Trump ally who flew to Mar-a-Lago to hold talks with the former president last week, has for months struggled to hold together his party’s warring factions, including isolationist Republicans opposed to further US support for Kyiv, and partisan conservatives reluctant to work with Democrats to pass legislation.

On Monday Johnson proposed to replace a $95bn Senate-approved bill offering more aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan with four separate bills, which would also include new sanctions on Iran.

But the full texts of the bills had yet to be released on Tuesday — and it was not certain that he would wrangle enough votes to pass the legislation in the coming days. The Republicans’ majority in the 435-seat House will shrink to just one vote later this week when Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher steps down.

As a result, Johnson is increasingly likely to rely on Democratic support to pass the legislation — or to keep his speakership. Any bills passed in the House will also need to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate before heading to US President Joe Biden for signing into law.

Congressional Democrats and the White House have not said whether they will get behind Johnson’s latest plan. A White House official confirmed that Biden and Johnson spoke on Monday.

John Kirby, spokesperson for the US National Security Council, told reporters on Tuesday that “at first blush, these proposals do get the necessary security assistance to Ukraine and Israel at a critical time right now” but added that the White House would reserve judgment until they were given more details.

Additional reporting by Steff Chávez in Washington

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