House Speaker Mike Johnson does wrong by Israel and Ukraine

Israel, under attack from murderous Hamas terrorists, needs American financial and military support, even as the beleaguered civilian population of Gaza deserves humanitarian help: Republicans in Congress entirely agree with President Biden and Democrats there. They are all together on the urgency to send assistance to Israel battling against Hamas.

Where Republicans break with Biden — or at least a significant slice of them under the thrall of former President Donald Trump do — is in also aiding Ukraine, which has been under brutal attack from Russia for a year and eight months. Against all expectations, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has rallied Ukrainians to fend off Moscow’s invasion.


The consequences are quite clear: Should America give up on Ukraine, Ukraine will fall to Vladimir Putin’s forces, and the message will be clear that the strong can gobble the weak even when the world says no. The message will be sent that despite endless strident statements about how morally unacceptable it is for one country to invade a sovereign neighbor, if you wait long enough — less than two years — the world will lose its will and accept the supposedly unacceptable.

It comes as little surprise that Trump, who coddled Putin during his four years in office, has a soft spot for the Russian strongman. And just as Trump is in Putin’s thrall, congressional Republicans are in Trump’s.

Bending to them, new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is intent on separating the two requests for foreign aid, Israel and Ukraine. Moreover, Johnson proposes paying for the aid to Israel by slashing tens of billions of dollars in funding for more robust IRS enforcement, an asinine, ideologically motivated push that will forfeit much more revenue than it “saves.”

The reason Johnson wants to put Ukraine assistance in a separate bill is that he knows there’s dwindling support in his rambunctious conference for standing up to Putin; he’d rather say the GOP stood up to help Israel than put anyone in the MAGA camp in the uncomfortable position of having to back Ukraine aid if they want to stand with Israel, or having to vote down aid for Israel if they so staunchly oppose American help for those fighting for their freedom and independence in Ukraine.

There’s nothing inherently right about combining two costly foreign aid spending measures in a single bill — but Johnson likely wants to separate the two so he never has to bother bringing Ukraine aid to the floor at all, even though it most certainly has majority support. Moreover, Johnson’s approach to separate the two and demand IRS-slashing offsets will go nowhere in the Senate, as it shouldn’t.

Yoking the Israel aid and IRS cuts together makes the speaker’s cynical maneuver impossible, so — especially in light of rapidly approaching funding deadlines — it’s a wholly understandable step.

Either Johnson and Republicans should accept a single, combined bill helping Israel and Ukraine alike in their moment of need, or they should commit to bringing both bills to the House floor, even if that means their passage will depend in part on Democratic votes. Johnson must fear he’d risk the speaker’s gavel should some Republicans rebel.

Two American allies are desperate for help. It is no time to let petty American divisions stand in the way.

—New York Daily News Editorial Board

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