Top House Armed Services Democrat Says Johnson’s ‘Convoluted’ Ukraine Aid Plan Will Only Bring Further Delays

Top House Armed Services Democrat Says Johnson’s ‘Convoluted’ Ukraine Aid Plan Will Only Bring Further Delays
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 16, 2024. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, cast doubts on Tuesday about a plan advanced by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to send new rounds of aid to Ukraine, arguing the proposal creates a convoluted process for supplying Ukrainian forces.

Congress has deliberated for months on proposals for new rounds of aid to assist Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia. The prospect of continuing to bolster Ukraine with tens of billions in aid has divided Republicans, and many have opposed the idea of tying aid to Ukraine to topics more favorable to their side of the political aisle, such as new rounds of military assistance to Israel.

In February, the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate approved a $95 billion supplemental spending proposal that ties around $61 billion in Ukraine-related aid to military aid for Israel, alliance building in the Indo-Pacific region, and international humanitarian aid projects.

The Republican-controlled House has resisted calls to advance the Senate’s $95 billion supplemental, and on Monday, Mr. Johnson announced a proposal to split the supplemental spending provisions into four separate bills. The four bills include one focused on Ukraine-related aid, one on Israel-related aid, and a third on Indo-Pacific alliances. A fourth bill would wrap together proposals to force the video-sharing app TikTok to divest from its Chinese ownership or face a U.S. ban, along with a proposal to take assets seized by the U.S. government from Russian nationals and give those assets to Ukraine.

While Mr. Johnson’s proposal might move the aid measures forward, Mr. Smith raised concerns during a Tuesday House hearing that the plan would further delay U.S. aid for Ukraine.

“We’ve already waited weeks too long. And I do also want to go on record as being deeply concerned about the convoluted process that the speaker announced yesterday for trying to get that help to Ukraine,” Mr. Smith said.

The top House Armed Services Democrat said that, absent another round of U.S. aid, Russian forces could be in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in the near future.

“At this point coming up with the twisted process that was announced yesterday will only further delay,” Mr. Smith continued. “Best case scenario, if they pull this together, maybe two months from now we’re able to figure this out, once it goes back to the Senate with all of these additional provisions to it that the Senate has to sort its way through. That is basically boiling Ukraine to death slowly.”

NTD Photo
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of House Armed Services Committee, offers comments during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on “Ending the U.S. Military Mission in Afghanistan” in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on Sept. 29, 2021. (Rod Lamkey/Pool via Getty Images)

Senate Bill Would Get Weapons to Ukraine ‘Within Days,’ Smith Says

Mr. Smith said the House has its own prerogative and doesn’t necessarily have to act on any bill coming from the Senate, but said a House vote on the Senate’s $95 billion supplemental represents the fastest path to getting new weapons to Ukraine.

“We have an option, and that option is to pass the bill that the Senate passed two months ago, which would go directly to the President, it would be signed, and the weapons would be flown to Ukraine literally within days,” the Washington Democrat said.

Mr. Smith said the Republican-controlled House has had seven months to come up with a proposal for new Ukraine-related aid and time has run out.

“We’ve had seven months to do it. And we haven’t, done anything, as we’ve delayed over and over and over and over again to the point where there is simply no time to delay further by once again, torturing ourselves to try to figure out what it is that the House Republican majority might want to do on Ukraine,” Mr. Smith said.

Other Democrats are giving Mr. Johnson some leeway to try out his plan.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate’s bill remains the fastest and surest way of ensuring a new round of aid for Ukraine, but said during a Tuesday Senate floor speech that he is “reserving judgment on what will come out of the House until we see more about the substance of the proposal and the process by which the proposal will proceed.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) also told Politico he’d received some “encouraging signals” regarding the speaker’s plan but said Democrats would likely wait to comment further until they can see his proposal in writing.

Mr. Johnson’s plan may fragment a bloc of Republicans who’ve been most opposed to the supplemental spending bill.

Following a closed-door Republican conference meeting on Monday evening, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), an outspoken opponent of additional funding for Ukraine, told reporters she remains firmly against the speaker’s current plan.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), another opponent of additional rounds of Ukraine aid spending, appeared more receptive, applauding Mr. Johnson for splitting the aid bills.

“I like that it’s separate bills,” he said.

Joseph Lord contributed to this article.

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