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Johnson Negotiating With WH on Ukraine 04/12 06:20

   House Speaker Mike Johnson is negotiating with the White House as he 
prepares for the treacherous task of advancing wartime funding for Ukraine and 
Israel through the House, a top House Republican said Thursday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Speaker Mike Johnson is negotiating with the White 
House as he prepares for the treacherous task of advancing wartime funding for 
Ukraine and Israel through the House, a top House Republican said Thursday.

   House Republican Leader Steve Scalise told reporters that Johnson had been 
talking with White House officials about a package that would deviate from the 
Senate's $95 billion foreign security package and include several Republican 
demands. It comes after Johnson has delayed for months on advancing aid that 
would provide desperately needed ammunition and weaponry for Kyiv, trying to 
find the right time to advance a package that will be a painful political lift.

   "There's been no agreement reached," Scalise said. "Obviously there would 
have to an agreement reached not just with the White House, but with our own 
members."

   Johnson, R-La., is being stretched between a Republican conference deeply 
divided in its support for Ukraine, as well as two presidential contenders at 
odds over the U.S.'s posture towards the rest of the world. President Joe Biden 
has repeatedly chastised Republicans for not helping Ukraine, saying they are 
doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin and hurting U.S. 
security. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate, has 
said he would negotiate an end to the conflict as he tries to push the U.S. to 
a more isolationist stance.

   The Republican speaker is set to travel to the former president's Mar-a-Lago 
club in Florida on Friday to meet with Trump and has been consulting him in 
recent weeks on the Ukraine funding to gain his support -- or at least prevent 
him from openly opposing the package.

   Sen. Markwayne Mullin, an Oklahoma Republican who often works closely with 
House lawmakers, said this week he and Trump have spoken with Johnson "in 
depth" about how to advance Ukraine aid. It is not clear whether Trump would 
lend any political support, but Mullin said he was hoping to get the former 
president behind the package, especially now that Johnson's job is at stake.

   Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, has threatened to try to 
oust Johnson as speaker and warned that advancing funding for Ukraine would 
help build her case that GOP lawmakers should select a new speaker.

   Meanwhile, Johnson has been in conversations with the White House about 
legislation that would structure some of the funding for Kyiv as loans, pave 
the way for the U.S. to tap frozen Russian central bank assets and include 
other policy changes.

   Johnson has also been pushing for the Biden administration to lift a pause 
on approvals for Liquefied Natural Gas exports. At times, he has also demanded 
policy changes at the U.S. border with Mexico.

   "This becomes a more dangerous world with Russia in Kyiv," said Rep. Don 
Bacon, a Republican who supports aiding Ukraine. "So we're just got to find a 
the smart way to get a bill passed that we can get out and back to the Senate."

   Still, Johnson is facing a practically open rebellion from a group of 
hardline House conservatives who are dissatisfied with the way he has led the 
House. With a narrow and divided majority, Johnson has been forced to work with 
Democrats to advance practically any major legislation.

   House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Thursday that the "only path 
forward" for the House was a vote on the Senate's national security package. He 
also suggested that Democrats would help Johnson hold onto the speaker's gavel 
if he did so.

   While Democrats have pressured Johnson to put the Senate package to a vote, 
they also may be divided on a vote as a growing number oppose sending Israel 
offensive weaponry while it engages in a campaign in Gaza that has killed 
thousands of civilians.

   The Biden administration, which would administer any military funding, has 
issued stern warnings to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that future 
U.S. support depends on the swift implementation of new steps to protect 
civilians and aid workers.

   "If we want to prevent handing Putin a victory in Europe, the House should 
do the right thing for democracy and pass the Senate's aid package now," Senate 
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday in a floor speech.

 
 
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