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Speaker Johnson Should Course-Correct Senate Bill On Ukraine

Let us hope he delivers and helps bring the war to a peaceful conclusion.

When wily Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted in November that the Senate would ultimately pass a Ukraine aid bill, we never doubted the outcome. Being skilled parliamentarians who know all the buttons to push, they engineered a win for the Military Industrial Complex by passing a $95 billion bill on Superbowl Sunday.

Thankfully, the Constitution designed Congress to have two chambers, and the People's House of Representatives has to agree to every word and punctuation mark in the Senate bill for it to become law. And this is only if the House even takes it up. 

We have argued for more than 18 months now that America should exploit every arm of diplomacy to bring an end to the Russia-Ukraine war, which was needlessly launched by Vladimir Putin, no matter what his grievances were. After America's disastrous military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have learned that foreign wars, even when there are no American boots on the ground, are counterproductive to the pressing humanitarian problems the world faces. 

During the peak of the Russia-Ukraine war, President Biden came perilously close to driving us to World War III. Famine became a persistent problem in African countries as both Ukraine and Russia, giants in agriculture with their fertile bread basket farming economies, couldn't export their produce to countries in need. Europe's decision to punish Russia by banning oil imports ended up punishing itself as energy prices soared. Mittelstand companies in Germany's Ruhr valley had to shut down. Germany is still in a recession.

Seven million refugees from Ukraine have resettled across Europe, the largest migration since World War II. Ukraine has run out of soldiers, with the average age now being over 42 years. Global South countries have refused to join America in condemning Russia and have teamed up against the West. 

The much-hyped summer counteroffensive gained virtually no new territory for Ukraine. According to the Harvard Kennedy School's Russia-Ukraine War Report Card in December 2023, Russia occupies 25,000 square miles, about 20% of Ukraine, nearly 9,000 square miles more than before the Feb 2022 invasion. American taxpayers have sent $110 billion in weapons and logistical support to help Ukraine - yet the report card shows that Ukraine has lost nearly 13% more territory than it had when Russia first invaded. The hard truth is that Russia prevailed, and Ukraine and the West lost. 

The United States Senate voted 70-29 to ignore all of the above points and fund Ukraine militarily when President Zelensky himself, probably modern history's most celebrated defender of a country, floated the idea of peace talks, albeit on his terms. Speaking after the vote, Schumer said:

If we want the world to remain a safe place for freedom, for democratic principles, for our future prosperity, then America must lead the way — and with this bill, the Senate declares that American leadership will not waver, will not falter, will not fail.

Some senators voted for the bill because the money would be spent in their home districts to rebuild America's weapons inventory. Others voted their conscience by saying that Putin's aggression should and must be punished. Still others unbelievably insisted that if America did not stop Putin, he would next attack a NATO country—a far stretch from the truth. [Putin has never said he would strike a NATO country. In his interview with Tucker Carlson, he said he floated the idea of becoming part of NATO but was rebuffed by the West. Besides, Russia is too weak to engage with NATO - it has barely been able to hold ground against an inferior fighting force in Ukraine.] 

Charity begins at home. The Senate's flawed justifications aside, America is the most indebted nation in the world, with a debt load of $34 trillion. Wars since 9/11 have cost over $8 trillion, mostly financed with borrowed money. Our borders are so wide open that the latest defeated Senate bill authorized the Department of Homeland Security to act only if there were more than 5,000 daily encounters with illegal migrants, essentially agreeing to accept 1.8 million illegal immigrants annually, no questions asked. This is no way to run the country. Sorry, Sen. Schumer, your definition of leadership is highly questionable.

Meanwhile, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) condescendingly declared:

Our base cannot possibly know what’s at stake at the level that any well-briefed U.S. senator should know about what’s at stake if Putin wins.

Senator Tillis, you're wrong. Stop talking down on Americans. They have eyes and ears and are smart enough to recognize that President Biden does not have a clear vision, and his 'as-long-as-it-takes' approach lacks a strategy for ending the war.

When is enough, enough? Biden's absence of vision would ensure that the war persists in Ukraine at least until January 2025. If he is reelected, God knows when.

The House GOP has a moral responsibility to kill the Senate bill when it arrives at its chamber by not even taking it up, Speaker Johnson's prerogative. The GOP's margin is razor thin, which is why liberals are now proposing that the House should consider a "discharge petition." During emergencies - and in the Left's minds, aid to Ukraine is a United States national emergency - a majority of members from both parties can table a motion to overrule the Speaker's objections and bring a bill to a vote on the House floor. 

First, if any GOP members were to do this, they would face a revolt from their voters back home. Second, several Democrats opposed to the bill's Israeli aid package may defect, neutralizing any GOP defections. [In the Senate, Jeff Merkley of Oregon joined Senator Bernie Sanders to vote No]. 

Third, even if a House vote is forced, nothing prevents Speaker Johnson from attaching the border bill already passed in the House to the Senate bill. Indeed, he released a statement after the Senate vote to show that he is following the debate closely:

In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.

H.R.2's provisions require finishing building a border wall, ending catch and release, ending the abuse of parole authority, reforming the broken asylum system, and restarting Remain in Mexico - all of which are anathema to most Democrats and amount to poison pills. The Senate would never approve of these proposals, having previously voted against Sen. Ted Cruz's amendment when he attached the House border provisions during an earlier vote.

America now looks to Speaker Johnson for leadership. Let us hope he delivers and helps bring the war to a peaceful conclusion.

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