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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Guardian staff and agencies

Iran attack puts pressure on US House speaker to pass aid bill for Israel and Ukraine

US speaker of the House Mike Johnson has said he will advance a bill for wartime aid to Israel this week
US speaker of the House Mike Johnson has said he will advance a bill for wartime aid to Israel this week. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

The US House speaker, Mike Johnson, has said he will aim to advance a bill for wartime aid to Israel this week following Iran’s weekend attack, but did not clarify whether Ukraine funding would be part of the package.

US assistance for both nations has languished amid political bickering in Congress, with Johnson – an ally of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump – blocking an earlier $95bn in aid sought by President Joe Biden for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan which had passed the Senate.

“The House Republicans and the Republican party understand the necessity of standing with Israel,” Johnson told Fox News. “We’re going to try again this week, and the details of that package are being put together right now.

“We’re looking at the options on all these supplemental issues.”

Johnson is already under immense political pressure from his fellow Republicans, who are divided in their support for helping Ukraine. Trump and far-right lawmakers in the House of Representatives have grown sceptical of pouring billions of dollars into Kyiv’s fight against Russia’s invading forces.

Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has threatened to oust Johnson as speaker over issues including his support for Ukraine.

The attack by Iran on Israel early on Sunday further ratcheted up the pressure on Johnson, but also gave him an opportunity to underscore the urgency of approving the funding.

The White House and top Democrats and Republicans in the Senate called on Johnson to approve the $95bn bipartisan package which has already passed the Senate that would provide $14.1bn in aid to Israel and $60bn to Ukraine.

“They should put it on the floor as soon as possible,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told NBC.

Johnson has over recent months refused to take up the Senate bill. Instead, he has sought to craft his own legislation, with Ukraine aid structured as a loan at Trump’s behest.

The speaker met Trump in Florida on Friday. On Sunday Johnson told Fox he was considering structuring the aid to Ukraine as a loan, as Trump has suggested and which Johnson said “I think has a lot of consensus”.

Several House conservatives have said they want stricter US migration policies added to any security aid package.

Biden, meanwhile, participated in a call with congressional leaders including Johnson on Sunday to address the “urgent need” for the House to approve the bipartisan aid package passed by the Senate.

“On the call, the president discussed the urgent need for the House of Representatives to pass the national security supplemental as soon as possible,” the White House said in a statement.

Republican Mike Turner, chair of the House intelligence committee, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he expected the House would pass a broad aid bill this week.

“I think it will have overwhelming support, both the Ukraine, Israel and Asia packages, not just because of what’s happened with Iran escalating the conflict in the Middle East but because these are allies that need and deserve our support.”

Reuters, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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