The message Turner brought back from Kyiv is that there’s not a moment to spare: Soldiers, he said, “are already rationing munitions” and “are unable to fully defend themselves on the battlefield.”
“We have to get this done,” he said. “This is no longer an issue of, ‘When do we support Ukraine?’ If we do not move, this will be abandoning Ukraine.”
Turner’s visit is particularly timely. The Senate is on track to pass its supplemental spending bill, which includes funding for Israel and Taiwan as well as Ukraine, no later than Wednesday. But what happens after that remains in question, even though Turner predicts the bill would have “overwhelming support” in the House.
“The speaker will need to bring it to the floor,” he said.
Not everyone is so sure.
Plenty of GOP lawmakers continue to insist that no taxpayer dollars should flow to protect Ukraine’s borders until the southern border is protected, and senior GOP aides are betting that Johnson won’t buck that pressure (even after playing an outsize role in killing the Senate’s bipartisan border deal). It certainly doesn’t help that Trump is now starting to speak out against foreign aid.
Hawks, however, are clinging to hope — based, in part, on one whispered story: When NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was on Capitol Hill late last month, he told a small group of Republicans that the speaker had personally assured him he’d allow a vote on Ukraine aid — possibly as a standalone measure — and that it would likely pass the House.
Johnson’s office firmly pushed back on that account.
“The speaker merely conveyed that each component of the supplemental must be evaluated on its own merits and can potentially be considered separately,” spokesperson Raj Shah said in a statement.
Johnson came into the
speakership last year pledging, “We can’t allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine.”
But he hasn’t provided a clear path to delivering the funding necessary to prevent that scenario, with aides citing a lack of White House answers to questions about where the money is going, how it’s being used and the endgame for Ukraine.
Furthermore, Johnson’s pool of political capital is quickly dwindling inside the House GOP, and with a government shutdown deadline just over two weeks again, he’ll be hard-pressed to spend any on Ukraine aid anytime soon lest he invites a right-wing mutiny.
Turner wouldn’t comment on private discussions but said he was confident Johnson will allow a Ukraine vote, one way or another.
“I don’t think that this is one of those issues where you can change positions,” he said. “You’re either for or against the authoritarian governments invading democratic countries. … You’re either for or against the killing of innocent civilians. You’re either for or against Russia reconstituting the Soviet Union.”
Turner added that if the hard right comes after Johnson, he believes Democrats will
protect him from a motion to vacate: “They know the work we have yet to get done this year is essential and critical,” he said. “If the Democrats allow the fringe that threatens Johnson’s job every day to be successful, then all their priorities and the nation’s priorities would fail.”
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