Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is proving that he’s going to make his term as politically toxic as possible. With his first foray into policy-making, Johnson has taken aim not just at President Joe Biden and Democrats but also Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. On Monday, Johnson released the text of his Israel funding bill, which splits up aid for Ukraine and Israel and takes a bite out of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
Johnson wants to offset the $14.3 billion Israel aid package by cutting an equal amount from the IRA’s boosted IRS enforcement. He wants to force Democrats to take a divisive vote: Choose aid for Israel or one of their major policy accomplishments. Killing the additional funding for tax enforcement agents would help super-rich people cheat on their taxes, which is just a cherry on top for Johnson. It’s also a ridiculous policy for a supposed deficit hawk since the extra money the IRS collects from people cheating on their taxes reduces the deficit.
Johnson is also taking direct aim at McConnell, emboldening MAGA opposition to McConnell in the Senate. McConnell has allied with Biden and Senate Democrats, insisting that the aid package has to include Ukraine funding and that it be passed as supplemental funding, not with offsets—taking the funds from other sources. “This is a moment for swift and decisive action to prevent further loss of life, and to impose real consequences on the tyrants who have terrorized the people of Ukraine and of Israel,” McConnell said. “And right now, the Senate has a chance to produce supplemental assistance that will help us do exactly that.”
The MAGA/Putin wing of the Senate, rabidly opposed to assisting Ukraine, is aligning with Johnson. “If Democrats want [Ukraine aid] so badly, then shouldn’t Republicans get one of our priorities in a trade?” Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio told Punchbowl News. “We shouldn’t just roll over and give Democrats everything they want, especially when it divides our conference so starkly.”
At least half of the Senate Republican conference supports Ukraine aid, as does a large chunk of the House GOP conference: 101 of them voted for Ukraine funding in the defense appropriations bill in September. So Johnson isn’t just trying to divide Democrats with this trick; he’s splitting apart Republicans too.
Poison politics aside, Johnson is complicating the next few weeks of urgent work Congress must do to avoid a government shutdown. Not only does Congress need to send this funding to Ukraine and Israel, it also has to avoid a government shutdown, which is set to happen when the current continuing resolution expires on Nov. 17. The legislative logistics of the Senate make getting all that done in such a short time a significant challenge, especially since splitting the aid bills means additional work.
It’s also worth noting that McConnell is explicitly endorsing supplemental funding—or emergency funding—for Ukraine and Israel. That means Congress doesn’t have to look for programs to take funding away from in order to fund the aid bills. Requiring offsets to pay for emergencies is a dangerous precedent.
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