House speaker lays out conditions for Republicans to support Ukraine aid

Mike Johnson says that Ukraine aid must be coupled with security for the US-Mexico border

Eric Garcia
Thursday 02 November 2023 11:13 EDT
Mike Johnson says Congress will pass 'stand-alone Israel funding bill' before supporting Ukraine

House Speaker Mike Johnson said that Republicans would only support aid to Ukraine if it also came with measure to further secure the US-Mexico border.

The newly elected speaker spoke in his first press conference in his new role and said that a package to support Ukraine would come “in short order” after the House of Representatives first passed an aid package to assist Israel.

“You’ve heard me say that we want to pair border security with Ukraine because I think we’d get bipartisan agreement on those matters,” he told reporters. “We have obligations and we have things that we can and should do around the world, but we have to take care of our own house first. And as long as the border’s wide open, we’re opening ourselves up for a great threat.”

Many Republicans, particularly the loudest voices in the House Republican Conference, ardently oppose supporting Ukraine. When the House passed a continuing resolution to keep the government open in late September, it did not include aid to Ukraine.

“If we’re going to take care of a border in Ukraine, we need to take care of America’s border as well,” Mr Johnson said.

The House is set to hold a vote on an aid package to Israel on Thursday. Mr Johnson’s proposed legislation would strip $14.3bn from the Inflation Reduction Act, Democrats’ signature climate and health care law passed last year.

Specifically, the legislation would pay for Israel aid with money meant to increase enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service and to create a free electronic tax filing system.

Mr Johnson defended the decision on Thursday and said he would not pass an aid bill for Israel unless it was offset by spending cuts.

“That’s a pile of money, $67bn that’s sitting over to refurbish, build up and hire new IRS agents and the rest, if you have to look at the scope and the importance of our commitments right now, my belief is this dire situation in Israel is so important, it’s more immediate,” he said. “If Democrats in the Senate or the House or anywhere else want to argue that hiring more IRS agents is more important than standing with Israel at this moment, I’m ready to have that debate.”

But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report on Wednesday that said the proposed package would actually increase the deficit.

“CBO anticipates that rescinding those funds would result in fewer enforcement actions over the next decade and in a reduction in revenue collections,” it said in a report. The office estimated that enacting the bill would not only decrease revenue to the government by $26.8bn between 2024 and 2033, it would also result in a net increase in the deficit of $12.5bn in that period.

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