Jeffries pressures Johnson to bring up Ukraine aid for vote next week

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is floating an ambitious deadline for the chamber to pass Ukraine aid, urging GOP leaders to send a Senate-passed foreign aid package to President Biden’s desk by the end of next week.

“The clock is ticking, and we have to get the bipartisan national security bill over the finish line before we leave town next Friday, March 22 — before we leave town,” Jeffries said Wednesday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “It’s reckless to do otherwise.”

Jeffries, as leader of the minority party, has virtually no power to control what legislation comes to the floor. And Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), while voicing his support for more Ukraine aid, is opposed to the $95 billion foreign aid package that passed last month through the Senate, where 70 senators — including 22 Republicans — supported the legislation.

Still, the longer the impasse grows, the more pressure is building on Johnson to move some form of Ukraine aid before November’s elections.

Several prominent GOP committee heads have stressed the importance of providing more military help to Kyiv amid recent Russian advances. A handful of Republicans, led by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), have launched a discharge petition designed as a “pressure point” to compel GOP leaders to bring Ukraine aid to the floor.

And on Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda met with congressional leaders, including Johnson, to deliver warnings that a Russian victory in Ukraine would put Poland in the crosshairs next.

Jeffries on Wednesday was quick to highlight Duda’s message, warning that a Russian invasion of a NATO ally would likely accelerate U.S. involvement, putting American troops in harm’s way.

“We cannot allow Ukraine to be overrun by Russia, because what will happen is that American lives are likely to be on the line — unless we were to believe that if Putin wins in Ukraine, he stops there, when he didn’t stop in Georgia, and he didn’t stop in Crimea,” Jeffries said.

“Breaking news: He’s not stopping in Ukraine, if he’s allowed to be successful. And in that neighborhood, it’s filled with NATO allies, including Poland, which is one of the reasons why President Duda was so strongly supportive of making sure we continue to support the Ukrainian effort.”

Johnson, after meeting with Duda, praised Poland as “one of America’s key NATO allies” and  “a strategic partner in promoting a free and prosperous future and in advocating for greater defense spending by our European partners.”

“In an increasingly dangerous world with growing threats, America must remain united with our friends against those who threaten our security,” Johnson said in a statement.

The Speaker is demanding that any new foreign assistance be accompanied by House-passed measures to limit migration on the southern border — provisions that are a non-starter with Democrats in Congress and the White House.

The impasse has raised real questions about how, or if, Johnson intends to move more Ukraine aid through the House, where a number of conservatives oppose more Ukraine aid and want Washington to focus its attention instead on domestic problems — a more isolationist position also championed by former President Trump as he races for another term in the White House.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) this week launched a second discharge petition designed to force a vote on the Senate Ukraine bill over the objections of Johnson and his leadership team.

Jeffries noted that McGovern’s petition has already attracted almost 180 signatures, versus just 14 for Fitzpatrick’s petition.

“That’s not dueling discharge petitions,” he said. “It’s a reaffirmation that the only clear path is to put the bipartisan, comprehensive Senate-passed bill on the House floor for an up-or-down vote. And it will pass overwhelmingly with Democrats and Republicans.

“That is the only path forward.”

Jeffries’s target date of March 22 aligns directly with the deadline for the remaining six bills to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal year 2024. As both debates evolve, some lawmakers have floated the idea of attaching some form of Ukraine aid to the “omnibus” spending package. Johnson, however, has said preventing a shutdown should be Congress’s first priority.

“The House is actively considering options on a path forward [on Ukraine],” Johnson said late last month, “but our first responsibility is to fund the government.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.