Ukraine aid bill faces hurdles in House amid GOP opposition

A flurry of opposition from Republicans threatens to kill a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine and Israel that the Senate overwhelmingly passed early Tuesday.

Hours before the Senate approved the bill in a 70-29 vote, Speaker Mike Johnson recommended not allowing the aid package to get a vote on the House floor. The move would provide Kyiv with an additional $60.1 billion — bringing the total U.S. investment in the war effort to more than $170 billion — as well as $14.1 billion for Israel's war against Hamas and nearly $10 billion for humanitarian aid to civilians in conflict zones. , including the Palestinians in Gaza.

“Republicans have been clear from the beginning of the debates that so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own borders,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement Monday night: “In the absence of any border policy change from the Senate, the House must continue to exercise its own discretion on these important matters.

Earlier this month, Mr. Johnson vetoed a bipartisan border bill in the Senate, saying the crackdown on the US-Mexico border should be tougher.

Senators often believe that having more votes on a bill in their chamber will prevent them from taking it into law. Hours after the Senate approved the aid package, President Biden told Mr. Johnson tried to increase the pressure, urging him to bring the bill out of the White House “immediately.”

“I call upon the Speaker to allow the whole House to speak its mind, and not to allow the extreme voices of the minority in the House to prevent a vote on this Bill,” said Mr. Biden said.

He added: “This bipartisan bill sends a clear message to Ukrainians and to our partners and to our allies around the world: America can be trusted. America can be trusted, America stands for freedom.

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The bill's passage in the Senate reflected significant support from Congress to continue arming Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, as the Republican Party increasingly moves away from its traditional hawkish posture and reliance on American authority and the promotion of democratic principles. All over the world.

But Mr. himself opposed to helping Ukraine. Johnson did not want to allow a House vote on whether to do so, reflecting how toxic the issue has become for his conference. Mr. A handful of ultraconservative lawmakers have said they will move to impeach Johnson.

The hostile terrain in the House means the only path a foreign aid bill has through the House may require a bipartisan coalition like the one in the Senate — including more mainstream, national security-minded Republicans — to come together and use it to force extraordinary measures. on it.

In recent days, supporters of sending aid to Ukraine, Mr. Johnson and the far-right debated the idea of ​​diverting opposition using a maneuver called a discharge petition. It allows lawmakers to force the law through if they can gather the signatures of a majority — 218 members — of the House.

Dozens of House Republicans, including the heads of the foreign affairs, armed services and intelligence committees, have supported sending tens of thousands of dollars in aid to Ukraine, but it's unclear how many — if any — they would be willing to take. It's an unusual move to work with Democrats, defying other members of their party, in an effort to force action on the matter. Even if they are, the process is convoluted and time-consuming.

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Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York said in a letter to his colleagues on Tuesday that Democrats will “use every legislative tool available to get comprehensive national security legislation across the finish line.”

“The stakes are high and failure in Ukraine is not an option,” said Mr. Jeffries wrote. “Traditional Republicans must now put America first and stand up to pro-Putin extremists who openly want Russia to win.”

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, traveled as part of a bipartisan delegation to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last weekend, and in an interview there was talk of using a discharge petition to force a vote on the aid package. Both sides of the aisle.”

Representative Mike Turner of Ohio, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said Mr. In a meeting with Zelensky, the Republican-controlled House assured the Ukrainian leader that it would come up with more money to help Ukraine. Fight the Russian invasion, Ms. Spanberger said.

“The fact is, if the speaker brings it up for a vote, we know there will be the votes to pass it,” he said, “and all options are on the table as to how to move it forward.”

Mr. Zelensky, in a video posted on social media, thanked senators for making a “morally strong choice” on Tuesday, saying their vote was “important not only for Ukraine, but for all countries that are targets of Russian attacks. Now or in the future.”

“The next step is a vote in the House of Representatives,” he said. “It's very important. We expect an equally strong moral choice.

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The possibility of a bipartisan coalition with conservative opposition in the House has angered hard-right Republicans, who have vowed to try to block such attempts.

“We are going to fight this Senate defense contractor caucus effort to hand the House floor to the Dems,” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, an influential conservative, wrote on social media. “Build up.”

If liberal House members block aid to Israel from being included in the law, rallying the support of 218 lawmakers will be difficult. A handful of progressives in the Senate voted against the bill, saying they could not support approving billions of dollars worth of offensive weapons to Israel.

Former President Donald J., who railed against the law on the campaign trail. Republicans need to bend Trump. In recent days, he has taken to social media to argue that substituting foreign aid for loans is “stupid” and encouraged Russia to “do whatever they want” to NATO members who don't spend enough money. their own safety.

Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, suggested that enough Republicans in the House, who are retiring at the end of the year, could help push the bill across the finish line.

“Last time I checked, about 40 of them didn't come back,” said Mr. Tillis said.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and Majority Leader, said on Tuesday that Mr. He said he would speak to Johnson privately and urge him to put the aid package to a vote.

“I will say to Speaker Johnson, I believe there is an overwhelming majority in the House who will vote for this bill,” he said.

Luke Broadwater Contributed report.

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