Author: Mariam Macharashvili


The House of Representatives of the US Congress passed the American aid package after almost a year of discussion and efforts. On April 20, four bills initiated by Speaker Mike Johnson were voted on to support Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, each active subjects of discussion in the US and globally. All four of them are part of Johnson’s unified approach (the so-called “Johnson package”), which aims to both assist the US’s international allies and to overcome internal resistance. The package includes $95.3 billion in security aid, the fate of which has been uncertain for months, precisely due to far-right Republicans’ objections. Johnson’s decision to allow a vote on the aid package threatens his tenure, as, so far, at least two Republicans have filed a so-called “motion to vacate” to remove Johnson from his post. As such, he is counting on support from the Democrats if the package passes.

The “Johnson package” totals $95.3 billion, which is distributed as follows: 1) Around $61 billion to help Ukraine – more than a third of which should be used to replenish the stocks of US weapons and ammunition, and $13.8 billion of which will be transferred to Ukraine to purchase American weapons. According to experts, along with anti-aircraft defense systems, Ukraine will also receive long-range ATACMS missiles; 2) More than $26 billion is allocated for the purpose of supporting Israel and providing humanitarian aid in Gaza. The humanitarian assistance was opposed by some conservative Republicans, but Johnson left the mentioned provision in, as, without it, he would not have won the support of the Democrats; 3) $8 billion is set aside to help Taiwan and contain China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, TikTok’s Chinese owner was given a year to sell its US assets.

On April 20, the House of Representatives approved the “Johnson package”, which was supported by the Senate a few days later. According to President Biden, he is ready to sign the document as soon as Congress passes it.

In this blog, I will analyze both the reason behind the Republicans’ objections, and why Johnson decided to put the aid package to a vote.

Republican objections caused a months-long stalemate in Congress regarding military aid to Ukraine. They had their reasons: a) Donald Trump’s stance that foreign aid should be structured as “loans” rather than “giveaways” served to reinforce the isolationist Republican viewpoints. He also questioned the US’s commitment to NATO allies that support Ukraine, and constantly emphasizes his ability to end the war in 24 hours, thus trying to cast doubt on Biden’s foreign policy approaches; b) According to some Republicans (Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Green, Matt Gaetz), the aid package should be directed primarily to domestic security challenges, with emphasis placed on immigration and the situation at the US-Mexico border, where the rate of arrests for illegal crossing has significantly increased. They also said that aid to Ukraine was wrong, employing a “putting America last” policy; c) According to polls, US citizens’ concerns about the circumstances near the Mexican border remain unmet, and there is little change in support for Ukraine. A November 2023 Gallup survey indicates that 62% of Republican voters think the US is helping Ukraine too much. This number stood at 50% last June. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 64% of respondents disagree with Biden’s border strategy, with 95% of Republicans falling into this category. Republican opposition is not primarily due to the poll results, but the issue may have partly reinforced their opinions.

In February 2024, the US Senate passed a bill providing $95 billion in wartime military aid to Ukraine, Israel and other allies. Notably, the bill does not include a provision on US-Mexico border security. Mike Johnson did not bring that bill to the House of Representatives for a vote, despite the fact that it had received bipartisan support in the Senate. Instead, in April, Johnson presented his own version of the package, the so-called “Johnson package”, which is divided into four parts. According to Alison McManus, director of the research organization Center for American Progress, the reasons for the package’s fragmentation are simple: “We know there is a faction on the right that is vehemently opposed to aid for Ukraine. We also know there’s a growing faction on the left that is opposed to continuing aid to Israel…Together, those two factions presented enough opposition to block it from moving forward. If you separate them, then you have small factions that are easier to overcome.”

The Senate and Johnson bills are similar in content, but there are some differences. One of the primary provisions of the new package is that the Biden administration has to submit a “multi-year plan” to Congress 45 days after the bill is signed, outlining the US’s strategic objectives in Ukraine and an estimated amount of resources that will be required. The second difference is that the “Johnson package” additionally includes US national security priorities, namely sanctions and political steps to contain the influences of China, Russia and Iran. Most importantly, the $9 billion in economic assistance provided to Ukraine under the terms of the “Johnson package” is structured as “forgivable loans.” There was no such entry in the Senate version. This leads us to think that, while Johnson made this adjustment in an attempt to “win the hearts” of Trump-supporting Republicans and earn their support, it also highlights the pressing necessity for the US to pass an aid package.

A second question arises as to why Mike Johnson decided to put the aid package to a vote in the House of Representatives in April. The answers to this question can be revealed by analyzing the events that have developed in recent months: a) After Iran’s attack on Israel, the White House and Senate urged Johnson to approve the American aid package. According to information provided by the Pentagon, Israel is in critical need of additional weapons; 2) When US aid to Ukraine was suspended, the position of the Ukrainians on the battlefield worsened, especially in the face of insufficient ammunition and reduced air defense missiles. According to CIA Director William Burns “there is a real risk that the Ukrainians could be defeated on the battlefield by the end of 2024 [without additional assistance]”. Further, the resources of the European states were insufficient, which further highlighted the importance of American aid to Ukraine; 3) According to the Washington Post, Johnson’s opposition to aid to Ukraine has changed since he took over as speaker and gained increased access to intelligence. “History will judge us for what we do today. This is a critical time now…I am a Reagan-era Republican. I believe in peace through power,” he said; 4) As CNN writes, there is also a personal factor that prompted Johnson to change his position: “My son is going to begin in the Naval Academy this fall. Simply put, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys. This is not a game, this is not a joke.” During the announcement, Johnson also mentioned that if Russia is not stopped, it will pose a threat to other NATO states and the world order.

Thus, the aid package, which provides military and financial assistance to US allies, was passed by the House of Representatives following several months of uncertainty. Mike Johnson, by initiating a package of four bills, aimed to overcome opposition from far-right Republicans. In addition, the current international situation, Iran’s attack on Israel, and Ukraine’s failure on the battlefield due to the lack of weapons and defense systems, have revealed the urgent need for American assistance. The adoption of this package represents a foreign political victory for President Biden; it promotes the protection of US interests internationally and it reaffirms the country’s long-standing support for allies to ensure security and stability