Today's D Brief: House edges toward aid vote; Ukraine’s eastern front erodes; Defense leaders on the Hill; GOP vs. ‘radical environmentalists’; And a bit more.

U.S. lawmakers could soon vote on sending more aid to Ukraine and Israel, House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., said Monday. Johnson announced his plan after months of pleading from Ukrainian officials and several days of private talks with Republican leaders, including indicted former President Donald Trump, who was impeached in late 2019 for withholding military funding to Ukraine. 

“This week, we will consider separate bills with a structured and germane amendment process to: Fund our ally Israel; Support Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression; Strengthen our allies in the Indo-Pacific; [and] Pass additional measures to counter our adversaries and strengthen our national security,” the House Speaker wrote Monday on social media.

If that sounds familiar, those are the same priorities packaged into a single bipartisan bill easily passed in the senate two months ago. However, under Johnson’s plan, the House’s “fourth bill will include a ban on TikTok, a bill to sell [off] seized Russian assets, a Lend-Lease act for military aid, convertible loans for humanitarian relief and other provisions,” Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News reported Monday evening. 

Johnson said he expects a vote on those four separate bills Friday evening. However, he left open the possibility of rolling all four into a single bill, but that “could enrage the right wing of the House GOP conference,” as CNN reported. “My personal preference is to do it individually, but we’ll let the body decide,” Johnson said Monday. 

Big picture: The White House has been pushing for additional aid to Ukraine since at least the fall, when it pitched its $106 billion supplemental aid request. That request included funds to be used for asylum processing and counter-fentanyl operations along the U.S.-Mexico border. But Republican senators increasingly withdrew from the plan over the following weeks, ultimately stopping that ambitious supplemental process in its tracks over the winter holidays—fearful such immigration reform could hurt the GOP’s chances in the 2024 general election. And so the Democrat-led senate eventually passed their $95 billion bipartisan package in early February, though that excluded funds for the border. 

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Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that hereOver a period of about two and a half hours on this day in 2007, troubled Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 17 others with two semi-automatic pistols in what remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

The latest in Ukraine: The country’s eastern front has “worsened significantly in recent days,” the top military commander said in a statement Sunday. The invading Russian military is trying to capture a location called Chasiv Yar and they want to do it by May 9, he said. (That’s the Soviet anniversary of victory over the Nazis.) Seizing Chasiv Yar would open up a path to another region, Kramatorsk, said Ukrainian Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky. Reuters has more on the significance of the city.

And as noted before, “The three most critical challenges for Ukraine have been evident for months: a lack of ammunition, a shortage of well-trained troops and dwindling air defenses,” the New York Times reported Tuesday.  

From the marketplace of ideas: J.D. Vance: The Math on Ukraine Doesn’t Add Up” is the headline on an April 12 New York Times op-ed by the junior senator from Ohio, who argues that Ukraine, outgunned and outpopulated by Russia, is not worth more U.S. aid.

On the other hand, J.D. Vance’s Ukraine math doesn’t add up is a rebuttal published April 16 in Defense One by Isaac C. Flanagan, whose Kyiv-based nonprofit works to fill Ukraine’s direst needs. “The consequences for U.S. national interests should Ukraine fall are profound—not least the erosion of the credibility of America's commitments, the undermining of international treaties, and the encouragement it would give to other aggressive states, such as China and Iran.” Read, here.

Additional reading: 

Another busy day on the Hill: Air Force, Army, and Navy leaders are on Capitol Hill as the annual posture hearing season continues. The Senate Armed Services Committee kicked things off with an early 9 a.m. ET hearing on the Air and Space Forces’ budget requests. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and his top officer Gen. David Allvin joined Space Force’s Gen. B. Chance Saltzman for that one. Catch what remains of the livestream here

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief Gen. Randy George began their budget review with the House Armed Services Committee at 10 a.m. ET. Livestream here

And Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro joined Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith for a 10 a.m. hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Livestream here

There’s also an afternoon House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness hearing on Defense Department installations, and a HASC Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee hearing with program officials regarding fixed-wing tactical and training aircraft programs. Details and video links here and here, respectively. 

Related reading:The F-35 program is costing more and doing less, GAO says,” Defense One’s Audrey Decker reported Monday. 


A few Republican House leaders are demanding an FBI briefing on “radical ecoterrorists on U.S. college campuses.” Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer of Kentucky teamed up with Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin and Mike Waltz of Florida to launch a probe into “potential threats against critical domestic energy infrastructure after a spike in calls for violence by radical ecoterrorists,” the trio announced Monday. As a result, they want Bureau officials to brief them on the topic by next Monday, April 22.  

Their worries stem from a small film released in U.S. theaters one year ago. That thriller about climate change-based activism is based on a 2021 nonfiction book of the same name written by Swedish ecology professor Andreas Malm. It’s title: “How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire.” The film was produced on just a million-dollar budget before its stateside release in April 2023. In the 18 months since its global premiere, it still hasn’t made a million dollars in returns. 

Writing last April, here’s how the New York Times ruminated on the film’s potential impact: “What are the chances that, years from now, ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ might be seen as something like ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ a catalyst for historical change? What are the chances that its legacy might be widespread condemnation and draconian crackdowns on ‘terrorist’ climate protests? What are the chances that it receives little notice at all and looks like just another example of our era talking about climate change but not halting it?” 

Waltz told FBI Director Chris Wray in a hearing last month, “We have 16 universities teaching as part of their curriculum” the book by Andreas Malm. (For some perspective, there are nearly 4,000 degree-granting postsecondary institutions across the U.S.) “Sixteen universities,” Waltz repeated, and said, “I would consider that facilitating domestic terrorism.” Wray didn’t fully agree, but he did describe the teaching of the book as “unacceptable.”

“Can I just get your commitment to look into what I would call absolutely unacceptable left-wing domestic terrorism and not only the activities, but who is funding it?” Waltz asked Wray.  

“We will certainly look into all forms of terrorism, including funding,” the director replied. 

“With radical environmentalists around the world commonly engaged in the destruction or attempted destruction of art and other property, blocking transit, disrupting private gatherings, and delaying energy infrastructure projects,” Comer, Grothman, and Waltz said in their Monday announcement, “the Committee seeks to understand the threat that environmental violent extremists also pose to the physical energy infrastructure of the United States and implications for national security.” You can read their letter to Director Wray in full (PDF) here