Ukraine aid finally passes the Republican House but may cost the GOP speaker his job

Lawmakers in Washington DC have finally passed military aid for Ukraine through the GOP-controlled House following months of delays.

The $60.8bn package, part of a three-part national security supplemental that passed the Senate in February, now heads back to the upper chamber for a final vote on Tuesday. It then heads to Joe Biden’s desk for signature. Republicans and Democrats in the upper chamber pressed their House colleagues to pass the legislation for months, citing Ukraine’s increasingly desperate situation, but the lower chamber took its time and quibbled over the bill’s intricacies, eventually splitting it into three parts and turning much of the aid to Ukraine into a loan system.

Even with that change it was a political defeat for Republicans in the House, who took public criticism from GOP members of the Senate including Mitch McConnell for weeks and eventually passed the legislation while relying on Democratic support to see it past the finish line.

Worse, Speaker Mike Johnson comes out of this ordeal at the lowest point of his speakership (so far). There are now three Republicans signed on to a motion to vacate and they are publicly warning that any attempt by Democrats to save him would only backfire by rallying more conservatives against the Republican leader. A few members of the president’s party say they would support him if a vote were called, but many in the party are keeping their cards close.

“I know there are critics of the legislation, I understand that,” Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters on Saturday. “But there is no question whatsoever that the House has made many improvements to the Senate bill, and the package we sent over there is much better.”

The legislation provides funding for the US to restock munitions and other supplies sent to Ukraine as part of previous shipments, while also setting aside billions for the procurement of new weapon and defence systems.

Two other pieces of legislation passed as part of the supplemental package provided funding for Israel and Taiwan’s defences.

Voting in the lower chamber may be over for the weekend but expect Mr Johnson to face his conservative critics in the coming days lest he face an all-out rebellion; the Ukraine bill saw defections from 112 Republicans.

While Democrats and Republicans in leadership celebrated the passage of the legislation, it was also heralded as a victory by Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, who lobbied personally for its passage with a recent trip to Washington. Cheers broke out on the House floor as the legislation passed, and lawmakers handed out Ukrainian flags and waved them before being admonished by the chair.

The question of whether Ukraine aid will be cut off by a Republican House caucus under a Biden presidency now seems to be decided. Whether Mr Johnson will remain in control of that caucus is now in more doubt than ever before.