Schumer refers to ancestors’ deaths by Nazis when calling on Johnson to advance foreign aid bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday pointed to the deaths of his Jewish ancestors during World War II in his push for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to put the $95 billion foreign aid package, which includes aid for Ukraine, on the House floor.

Schumer, speaking at a press conference from New York, pushed back on the “isolationist” approach to global conflicts and the death and destruction caused by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in World War II.

“There are those in the House — these far-right people — who are isolationists. They said, ‘This is far away, we don’t have to bother,’’” Schumer said Sunday. “That’s what the world said in 1938 with Hitler, and America paid the price — hundreds of thousands of deaths, billions of dollars spent. That’s what people said in 1916 here in the U.S., and a prolonged World War I then cost us dearly, leading to World War II. So, these isolationists have not learned the lesson of history.”

Schumer then told a personal anecdote about his ancestors in Chortkiv, Galicia — a city in western Ukraine where several groups of Jewish people resided prior to the Holocaust.

“In 1941, the Nazis came in, they told my grandmother, who was well known in the town of Chortkiv, to gather her family on the porch. Thirty-five members gathered from ages in the 80s to 3 months old. The Nazis said, ‘You’re coming with us.’ She said, ‘We’re not moving,’ and they machine-gunned every one of them dead. That’s what happens when you try to suck up to dictators. You can’t. Johnson has to learn that lesson,” Schumer said Sunday.

Schumer’s indirect call to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin came on the heels of his trip to Ukraine last week, in which he traveled with a congressional delegation to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The New York Democrat has repeatedly called on Johnson in recent weeks to bring a $95 emergency defense spending bill to the House floor after it passed in the upper chamber earlier this month.

The bill includes about $60 billion in aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia, along with funds for Israel’s war against Hamas, humanitarian assistance in Gaza and the United States’s Indo-Pacific allies.

The bill is facing uncertainty in the House after Johnson signaled he would not put it on the floor, as it lacks border security measures demanded by House GOP members.

The Senate’s legislation is an attempt to get foreign aid passed in Congress after a bipartisan border security deal, which would’ve unlocked aid for Kyiv, crumbled earlier this month amid GOP opposition.

“The Senate showed that we would support Ukraine, we got … over 70 votes … bipartisan and strong Democratic and Republican support,” Schumer said. “If Johnson puts the bill on the floor, it would pass, but he is so afraid of the radical right, the hard right in his caucus — it’s only about 20 or 30 members — that he has not done it.”

Congress has not been able to pass aid for the Eastern European nation in nearly a year amid increasing division among lawmakers. Funding for Ukraine was last passed by Congress at the end of 2022, when a Democratic majority passed its fourth package for the nation.

The Hill reached out to Johnson’s office for comment.

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