Thanks to Mike Johnson and House Democrats, Ukraine gets the aid it desperately needs

April 20th, 2024 by Tom Lynch


“In life’s unforgiving arithmetic, we are the sum of our choices.” — George Will

And so, it has happened. Speaker Mike Johnson, transforming what had been a spine of jello into one of firmer stuff, aligned himself with willing Democrats waving Ukrainian flags, and today cajoled the House of Representatives into passing a $95 billion Supplemental package of aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, with $61 billion going to Ukraine. Eighty percent of the money for Ukraine will be spent in the U.S. with American workers in American manufacturing plants building the weapons and providing the ammunition Ukraine so dearly needs.

The Senate is expected to pass the legislation on Tuesday. President Biden has said he’ll sign it when it gets to his desk.

Ukraine has been in dire straights lately, principally because of its diminishing ammunition and weaponry. It has had to withdraw from positions it had retaken from the Russians, and it is now rationing ammunition. This is a recipe for disaster.

To get Ukraine what it needs immediately, the Pentagon will ship older weapons and ammo already in storage; the new armaments will replace those that will be heading to Ukraine next week. It’s a classic win/win. Ukraine, on its heels, gets what it needs immediately; the U.S. replenishes its aging armaments, an action that had been resisted mightily by many House Republicans.

The vote in the House was 311 to 112 in favor of the aid to Ukraine. The 112 who voted against the aid were all Republicans. One Republican, Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania, voted “present.”

Johnson, to his credit, is taking a huge political risk. Polling by the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs shows 53% of Republicans continue to oppose further aid to Ukraine. But, overall, six in ten Americans favor providing both economic assistance to Ukraine and sending additional arms and military supplies to the Ukrainian government (58% each).

And Johnson’s recent trip to Mar-a-Lago to get Donald Trump’s blessing for his push for the Ukrainian aid was key to his moving forward. At the end of their meeting, Trump said, “I’m with Speaker Johnson.” That still didn’t sway the 112 who voted against the aid today, but 101 did press the “Yea” button. All 210 democrats present today voted for the aid.

Mike Johnson’s troubles are not over. In fact, they may be just beginning. The lunatic fringe, led by Rome Georgia’s Marjory Taylor Greene, a clever firebrand with a mind as deep as my late grandmother’s sewing thimble, may activate the Motion to Vacate she’s already filed. She now has two Kentuckian co-conspirators, Thomas Massey and James Comer. It’s not exactly a movement yet, but who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Personally, I don’t think they will actually call for a vote to oust Johnson. Why? Because it’s likely to fail, and that would bring embarrassment they don’t want. Most Republicans do not seem eager for another Speaker battle of the ilk that got Johnson his job. They seem to be tired of all the shenanigans.

Plus, it is entirely conceivable that House Democrats would help Johnson keep his hanging-by-a-thread job. They now know they can work with him.

Today’s bottom line is this: Ukraine will now get the means to defend itself and even send the Russians, who seem to be hanging their hopes on a war of attrition, back from whence they came.

This would not have happened had not Mike Johnson recognized the status quo was unsustainable and decided he could no longer support it.

Morally and politically, that was the right thing to do.