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Updated Feb 28, 2024, 9:45am EST
politicsNorth America

Europeans press US House Speaker Johnson for Ukraine aid vote

REUTERS/Leah Millis
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The News

European lawmakers wrote to U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson this week, urging him to hold a vote on U.S. assistance for Kyiv’s war effort against Russia’s invasion.

“We believe that thanks to your personal leadership, the Congress will demonstrate historic bipartisan unity in support of the collective efforts to assist Ukraine,” the letter dated Tuesday stated.

“Therefore, we ask you to take the next step toward adopting a historic decision on HR 815 that will secure US assistance to foreign countries and provide Ukraine with the necessary funds to continue its fight,” it said, referring to the measure that passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote earlier this month.

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In addition to Ruslan Stefanchuk, the chairman of Ukraine’s national Parliament, the letter is also signed by parliamentary leaders in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, and Spain.

Raj Shah, a spokesman for Johnson, told Semafor that the speaker’s immediate priority is funding the government and avoiding a shutdown but that he “believes we must confront” Russian President Vladimir Putin “and is exploring steps to effectively do so.”

There is uncertainty over the path forward for billions in U.S. assistance to Ukraine two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country. The Senate package, which Johnson has suggested the House will not vote on in its current form, included $60 billion in funding to help Ukraine as well as aid for Israeli and American allies in Asia.

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In the letter, the signatories recognized the “indispensable and prominent role of the United States” in helping Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion and vow to increase their own support for Ukraine. The letter also characterized the Russian invasion as a threat to not just Europe, but global security.

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Step Back

While Johnson has publicly expressed support for Ukraine, a growing number of House Republicans — and Republican voters — oppose further U.S. assistance to the war-torn country. Ukraine aid opponents argue that the U.S. should be focusing on domestic issues like securing the southern border or directing resources to deterring threats from China.

Johnson attended a meeting at the White House Tuesday with President Joe Biden and other congressional leaders to discuss a path forward on supporting Ukraine and funding the federal government. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described the conversation on Ukraine as “intense” and said the rest of the group pressed Johnson on the urgency of passing Ukraine aid.

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Johnson told reporters that he told the group the House would address the foreign aid bill “in a timely manner,” but added that border security is the chamber’s “first priority.”

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