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House approves foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

ANDREW LIMBONG, HOST:

After GOP divisions stalled action for months, the House of Representatives today approved a foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, a Republican and vocal supporter of aid to Ukraine, argued before the final vote that his party had a choice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL MCCAUL: So as we deliberate on this vote, you have to ask yourself the question - am I Chamberlain or am I Churchill?

LIMBONG: NPR's congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh has been following the vote today. Hey, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Andrew.

LIMBONG: So what's in this package?

WALSH: Well, this legislation is similar to the $95 billion package that the Senate approved back in February. It has roughly $60 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel and about $8 billion for Taiwan. The House attached another measure that wasn't in the Senate bill. It's a national security bill with some sanctions for Iran and Russia. It also has a bill that forces TikTok to divest from its Chinese parent company within a year or face a ban in the U.S. That also has bipartisan support in the Senate.

LIMBONG: All right. After all the delay, why did it finally get through the House today?

WALSH: Well, Speaker Johnson refused to take up the Senate bill because more than half of House Republicans opposed sending any more money for Ukraine. To get around his own internal politics, he finally decided to break up the package into pieces and allow members to vote on each component separately. Then he merged it all back together and it's going to be sent to the Senate. But the speaker did need Democratic votes to even bring the bill to the House floor. That's something that rarely happens in the House.

LIMBONG: You know, before he was elected speaker, Mike Johnson voted against sending more money for Ukraine. What changed his mind?

WALSH: You know, Johnson is now a top congressional leader. He gets regular intelligence briefings. Earlier this week, he told reporters he believed the intelligence about the consequences for Ukraine if Congress didn't act, and he said he'd rather send bullets than American troops to Ukraine. He's also emphasized that the House bill structures some of that money for Ukraine as a loan. That's an idea that former President Trump has floated, and Speaker Johnson was quick to point that out as he was trying to build support inside his party for this legislation. But in the end, today, more House Republicans voted against the $60 billion than voted for it, and that could pose a political problem for Johnson.

LIMBONG: All right. Speaking of that political problem, Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who opposed aid to Ukraine, has pushed to oust the speaker. Is that threat still on the table?

WALSH: It is still out there, and Congresswoman Greene has a couple of other House Republicans publicly with her on this. There was some question if she would push for a vote today, but she told reporters she wanted her Republican colleagues to go home and hear from constituents about what they think about the speaker. The speaker was asked about this today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE JOHNSON: I've done here what I believe to be the right thing, and that is to allow the House to work its will. And as I've said, you do the right thing, and you let the chips fall where they may.

WALSH: The house is out for the rest of the week for recess, but Congresswoman Greene can bring up a resolution when they get back. And with another House Republican, Mike Gallagher, retiring early, the speaker's already razor-thin margin goes down to just a one-vote margin.

LIMBONG: Sheesh. All right. So when do you expect the Senate to take action on this funding?

WALSH: Soon. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this morning the Senate could vote as early as Tuesday.

LIMBONG: That's NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thanks so much.

WALSH: Thanks, Andrew. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.