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Biden calls on Congress to pass Ukraine aid in appearance with Johnson

President Biden used a joint appearance with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Friday to urge lawmakers to pass assistance for Ukraine that faces an uncertain path forward in the House.

Biden, speaking at the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon to mark St. Patrick’s Day, expressed his appreciation for Ireland’s commitment to providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine during its war with Russia and to the people of Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war.

“I’m committed to continuing to do our part,” Biden said to the room of bipartisan lawmakers, which included Johnson.

“I’m confident the vast majority — and excuse me for saying this — but I think a vast majority of members of Congress are willing to do their part. And I continue to urge every member in this room to stand up to Vladimir Putin. He’s a thug,” Biden added, at which point those in the room, including the Speaker, applauded.

Biden called on the House to send him the national security supplemental that passed the Senate in a 67-32 vote last month. The legislation included $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, as well as funding for Israel and for humanitarian assistance in Gaza. But Johnson has yet to bring it up for a vote in the House.

“It sends a clear message that America stands up for freedom and we bow down to no one. To no one in the world,” Biden said.

Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach of Ireland, echoed Biden’s calls to provide aid to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion, which began in February 2022.

“Ukraine must not fall, and together we need to stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Varadkar said.

Friday’s public plea comes as Johnson has signaled that he plans to move on aid for Ukraine but has not disclosed details of what the package would look like, with a growing contingent of his conference opposed to sending any assistance to the embattled U.S. ally. He said the chamber is first focusing on completing the government funding process.

At the House GOP retreat in West Virginia this week, Johnson said “I understand the timetable and I understand the urgency of the funding,” but once against cast doubt on the Senate supplemental.

He said the lower chamber will “work the will of the House” and is “processing through all the various options right now,” warning that the ultimate product “may not look exactly like the Senate supplemental.”

Johnson delivered the same message to Republican senators during their retreat this week, floating sending aid as a loan or through a lend-lease program.

Notably, however, he did not mention if the Ukraine legislation would include U.S. border security, a departure from his previous stance that any aid for Ukraine must be tied with policy addressing the situation at the southern border. The inclusion of tough border security measures Republicans have been demanding would be nonstarters among Democrats. 

During an interview with Politico on Thursday, Johnson said he expects the House will approve Ukraine aid through a fast-track process that will require Democratic support. He also floated separating Israel and Ukraine aid, but the interview did not mention whether border security would be included. 

Source: The Hill

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