What Kyiv Must Hope for Now*

The new speaker of the House of Representatives is a Donald Trump loyalist. Does that actually offer Joe Biden a chance to ssecure aid for Ukraine?

The Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have not solved their identity crisis by electing Mike Johnson as speaker. But in the last three weeks, they have inadvertently engaged in publicly negotiating their position. The most important lesson from the three weeks of chaos since Kevin McCarthy was ousted is that Donald Trump has de facto veto power but no control over the doings in Congress.

The former and, potentially, future president could not push through Jim Jordan, his preferred candidate. There are still a handful of brave Republicans who do not seek salvation through confrontation alone. But Trump was able to stop all the candidates he feared would care more about the country’s well-being than about loyalty to him.

Overcoming the ‘Establishment’

Neither Democratic President Biden nor America’s Western partners can be happy that the Republican who now is officially the most powerful force in Washington is a crafty lawyer who, almost three years ago, expended a lot of energy to disenfranchise millions of Americans and keep Trump in office after Trump lost the election. Admittedly, though, things were not that much better with the opportunistic Kevin McCarthy.

More pressing is whether Johnson will be guided by blind loyalty to Trump when it comes, as it soon will, to the most urgent budgetary questions, including support for Israel and Ukraine.

Opposition is already growing in Congress to Biden’s plan to get Republicans on board by linking the two issues and others together. Johnson has sometimes supported aid for Ukraine, and sometimes he has rejected it. At least he should listen when supporters justify aid by noting why it is in the United States’ interest to stop Vladimir Putin.

In the best case scenario, the vociferous Trumpists will be content enough with their victory over the “establishment” to give the new speaker a looser rein. Because Johnson is, after all, one of them.

*Editor’s note: The original version of this article is available with a paid subscription.

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