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Johnson says Ukraine aid and border policy reform ‘likely’ to be split

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told the three leaders of the Baltic parliaments that President Biden’s national security supplemental that includes aid for Ukraine is “likely” to be split up over concerns about border policy reforms, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

Johnson said the decision would ultimately depend on the border text that emerges from Senate negotiators, he told the senior European lawmakers, according to the source.

The Hill reached out to Johnson’s office for comment. The Speaker’s remarks were first reported by Semafor. Johnson spokesperson Raj Shah told Semafor that the comments were made in a hypothetical context.

The remarks come as Johnson and other Republicans have signaled that the Senate deal, which would pair Ukraine aid with changes to migration and border policy, would be “dead on arrival” in the House if the text of the bill is in line with reports about its contents.

One major rumored provision in the deal that is eliciting strong GOP pushback concerns the executive branch power to halt migration if illegal crossings exceed 5,000 per day. Republicans opposed to the deal argue that the threshold should be far lower.

Former President Trump has pushed for Republicans to reject any bipartisan border deal to rob President Biden of a legislative victory. Democrats have accused Republicans of tanking the deal out of a desire to help Trump in his 2024 bid against Biden, but Johnson said that notion was “absurd” earlier this week.

While House Republicans are increasingly opposed to more aid for Ukraine, allies in Europe have expressed confidence that Johnson, and a majority in Congress, support continued U.S. assistance for Ukraine.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of the negotiators of the border policy reform, said there’s still consensus on keeping border policy reforms as part of the larger national security supplemental, which includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

“We have a deal. I think the bigger problem we’re trying to solve is whether there are the votes in the Republican conference to pass this,” he said.

“I think demands to have border and Ukraine together have been pretty consistent not just in the Senate but in the House as well.”

Even as Congress has yet to move forward on passing new aid for Ukraine, European lawmakers have consistently expressed confidence that Democrats and Republicans will ultimately move forward on continued U.S. military and economic assistance for Kyiv.

The three heads of the Baltic parliaments spoke with a group of journalists Wednesday morning and said the meeting with Johnson was positive, and that he expressed U.S. support for Ukraine.

Lauri Hussar, speaker of the Parliament of Estonia, said the House Speaker expressed “his readiness” to deliver U.S. assistance to Ukraine, saying there “should be a way to find a solution to the problems” and “domestic issues” standing in the way.

“He expressed his readiness to work for the solution to continue the helping of Ukraine,” Hussar said.

Daiga Mieriņa, Speaker of the Parliament of Latvia, said the Baltic leaders are confident that there is a majority of support in Congress to provide aid for Ukraine.

“Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet with various congressman, with committee leaders, and of course opinions are different, we heard different views, but overall we are pleased to say there’s broad support for Ukraine,” she said.

“Speaker Johnson also affirmed this close partnership [with the Baltics] and that this close partnership would continue going forward.”

Emily Brooks contributed to this report. 

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