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House GOP Swallows Ukraine Funding It Had Opposed Only Months Ago

The new spending bill to keep the federal government open past Friday includes a dollop of funding to help Ukraine fight off invading Russians — even though House Republicans had rejected the cash a few months ago and giving Ukraine any more money may endanger House Speaker Mike Johnson’s standing in the party.

Buried in the 1,000-page-plus spending bill is a provision giving Ukraine $300 million to use on training, weapons and replenishing U.S. stocks of weapons sent there, among other things.

The amount is a pittance compared to the about $60 billion the Biden administration has requested to last Ukraine past the November elections and is in the bipartisan Senate foreign aid package that has yet to be taken up by the House.

But any amount of money going to Ukraine, which has been fighting off an unprovoked full-scale invasion by Russia since February 2022, is likely to set off alarm bells within part of the House Republican conference, where skepticism about Ukraine runs deep and the money at issue was rejected by most of the party in September.

“AT LEAST $300 million in additional funding for Ukraine in this minibus. This legislation is NOT a win for Americans,” posted Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) early Wednesday.

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative and libertarian House Republicans, scheduled a morning press conference to discuss the bill, which it will likely oppose.

In addition to the prospect of a restless Freedom Caucus, one House Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has threatened in the past to bring up a move to oust Johnson if he brought the big supplemental spending bill including Ukraine aid to the House floor. Whether she would consider the smaller amount a similar provocation is unclear.

The bill is expected to be brought to the House floor under a procedure requiring it get a two-thirds majority to pass, reflecting that Democrats will likely bring most of the votes for it, with House Republicans bringing the rest. But House Republicans had a say in negotiations because they control the House and Johnson decides what makes it to the floor.

The spending bill was negotiated by the White House, the leaders in the House and Senate and leaders of the Appropriations Committee in both chambers. That may be a problem for Johnson because some in the House GOP believe strongly in the “Hastert rule,” named after a former House speaker, that held that when Republicans control the House, only legislation that has the support of the majority of the majority party should pass.

And the Ukraine funding in question did not have that.

A series of votes in September showed GOP support for Ukraine eroding, reflecting a souring among Republicans in general on the issue, even as Democratic support has remained robust. In all but one of those votes, a bare majority of Republicans voted in favor of the aid — until the $300 million assistance vote.

In that vote, on Sept. 28, 117 Republicans voted against the aid and language putting in place additional oversight of how Ukraine aid is spent. Another 101 voted in favor of the aid, joined by 210 Democrats to ensure easy passage of the bill, which was authored by a Republican, Rep. Tom Kean (N.J.).

But the timing of that vote, coming only days before the government was set to shut down without new funding on Oct. 1, was significant. It led then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to pull $6 billion in Ukraine funding from a stopgap spending bill even though its planned inclusion up to that point had drawn only mild protests. No new Ukraine money has been approved by Congress in the meantime.

The stopgap spending bill still angered McCarthy’s opponents within the House GOP conference and eight Republicans joined with Democrats to make him the first speaker ousted from the House floor only days later.