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View from Capitol Hill: Bitterly divided parties conspire to pass foreign aid Bill but discord sizzles unabated

House speaker Mike Johnson fends off criticism and claims history will judge the funding decision well

A rare sound: cheering from the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill. But no sooner had the celebrations after both Democratic and Republican politicians voted to pass a $95 billion foreign aid Bill than the first sounds of imminent discord began. On the steps of the Capitol, Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene accused her party colleague, House speaker Mike Johnson, of initiating a “third betrayal” of the GOP by steering the package through.

Taylor Greene is the most vocal of a trio of Republicans who have vowed to remove Johnson as speaker by bringing the vote to the floor and mirroring the ousting of Kevin McCarthy as speaker last October, an ejection which saw the previously obscure Johnson thrust into the spotlight as speaker of a House that bordered on dysfunctional. One hundred Republicans voted with Democrats to advance the Bill, which will see $60 billion going to Ukraine’s military cause against Russia as well as aid to Israel and Taiwan, and humanitarian aid to Gaza. The rare success of the bitterly divided parties conspiring to pass a bipartisan Bill led to the waving of Ukraine flags by some representatives in the House, leading to calls to observe proper decorum.

“The House has worked its will,” Johnson told reporters before he left.

“These are not normal times here in the House or around the world as we all know. We had a disturbance here on the House floor just a bit ago. I just want to say simply what I think most people agree: we should only wave one flag on the House floor, and I think we know which flag.”


The success completed a remarkable personal change of political and moral conviction for Johnson, who has made the move from objecting to the foreign aid Bill to becoming the architect of its safe passage. When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signalled his disapproval of the Senate bipartisan Bill, Johnson had described it, in late January, as “dead in the water.” But privately, he was listening and examining his stance over the past few months and spoke with colleagues on both sides of the House as he sought to draft a Bill that would appease enough members from both sides. On Saturday, he sought to make clear the differences between the House Bill and what he described as the “blank cheque” proffered by the Senate.

“This is very different. We gave our members a voice, a better process and ultimately a much better policy. It provides for greater accountability over Ukraine aid and forces an endgame strategy for the Ukraine war. Unlike the Senate’s Bill, the loan system itself is a House improvisation. This package I will note also includes national security packages, but it is the only way we could have got Democrats to support aid to Israel.”

The Bill includes “language” that will ensure that none of the aid bound for Gaza is diverted to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which was accused by Isreal of having members associated with Hamas, or to Hamas itself.

The main reason for Johnson’s conversion was, he explained, simple. He listened to those who knew what was happening on the ground on Ukraine.

“I really do believe the intel,” he told reporters.

“I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed. I think he might go to the Baltics next. I think he might have a showdown with Poland or one of our Nato allies.”

It leaves him ideologically opposed to his hard-right colleagues who prefer to hold the Chamberlain view that the Ukraine-Russia war is a quarrel in a faraway country.

“A foreign war package that does nothing for America?” Taylor-Greene said on Saturday. “It’s unbelievable. I’m thankful that America gets to see who this man is.”

By Sunday morning, Johnson could bask in the bipartisan acclaim emanating from the raft of weekend political review shows on television. Texas congressman Tony Gonzales predicted Johnson will survive before launching an astonishing televised attack on some of his colleagues, who he termed as “real scumbags”.

“These people used to walk around with white hoods at night: now they are walking around with white hoods in the daytime. Look, it didn’t surprise me that some of these folks voted against aid to Israel, but I was encouraged to see by a nearly 10 to one mark that Republicans supported our allies on the battlefield.”

It’s the kind of intemperate language guaranteed to draw a small grimace of displeasure from Johnson. But he was probably attending his church on Sunday rather than enjoying the plaudits. Johnson is cut from the old-style political Christian school of southern Republican politics and one of his chief weapons in what has been a true baptism of fire as House speaker is his inherent, steely calm. Asked about the gathering storm within his party, Johnson remained outwardly unconcerned. “I don’t walk around this building worried about a motion to vacate. The House has a lot of important work to do here, a lot of important measures to be taken. This is an important matter, it is timely. And the House had the time to deliberate and do this in the right manner. I think we did our work well. And I think history will judge it well.”