Ukraine Aid Crashes Headlong Into US House Standoff Over Border

(Bloomberg) -- Any relief felt in Kyiv over the US Senate’s pre-dawn passage of Ukraine war aid will almost certainly be short-lived. The legislation has no chance of advancing in the US House anytime soon.

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House Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to act on Ukraine until a Republican-only bill to address the migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border is enacted. Democrats, who endorsed a short-lived bipartisan immigration deal last week, say the price of that ransom is simply too high.

Adding to the intensifying stalemate is the 2024 election in general — and Donald Trump, in particular.

The GOP’s likely presidential nominee has directed Republicans not to settle for anything less than a “perfect” deal — an all-or-nothing stance that lets him build his campaign around the worsening problem at the border.

“The House must do everything in its power to stop this nonsense & put America First,” Texas Republican Randy Weber, a Trump ally, said on X of the Senate’s bill.

Trump has also cast serious doubt on US security commitments, shocking NATO allies on Saturday when the former president said he’d once told a European leader that he’d let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to alliance members that didn’t meet their defense-spending pledges.

A protracted standoff over Ukraine would weigh on the NATO alliance further, Democrats warn, and risk handing Russia a victory in Ukraine.

No Plausible Path Forward

On its own, the Senate-passed package, which also includes funds for Israel and Taiwan, would pass the House.

But as speaker, Johnson controls what the House does — and doesn’t — consider, and bringing up the Ukraine package would spur a mutiny on his right flank.

That leaves three possible solutions to the standoff, none of which are easy or likely:

  • The House could attach conservative border policies to Ukraine aid and try to negotiate that with the Senate;

  • President Joe Biden could issue executive orders on the border to ease GOP concerns;

  • House GOP defense hawks could team up with moderate Democrats and force a House vote.

Deep opposition to Ukraine aid from ultra-conservatives threatens to sink the first option. For the second, it’s unlikely Biden would go as far by fiat as Republicans want him to go.

As for the third option, Republican defense hawks in the House, whose votes would be needed, say they won’t buck the speaker. Democrats also can’t count on support from some progressives, who oppose Israel aid in the package.

Johnson “has effectively said we can’t move this without securing the southern border,” House Majority Whip Tom Emmer said of Ukraine aid on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, House Republicans plan to move forward Tuesday with another vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the border crisis.

That vote comes after the House narrowly failed to pass the impeachment resolution last week after a chaotic scene on the floor.

--With assistance from Christian Hall.

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