Feb 7, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Congress scrambles for backup plan on Ukraine and Israel aid

Rep. Don Bacon.

Rep. Don Bacon. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are searching desperately for alternate routes to pass aid to Ukraine and Israel after the implosion of the House's Israel bill and the Senate's national security package.

Why it matters: For Ukraine in particular, there is bipartisan concern that the aid could mean the difference between continued resistance and defeat at the hands of Russian forces in the coming months.

  • "We cannot walk away from Ukraine," said Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.). "I would venture to say thousands of American lives will be lost if we do, because Putin will go into Poland and … we'll respond and WWIII will be upon us."

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to remove the border provisions from the Senate supplemental and hold a vote on it with just Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan aid, Axios' Stef Kight reported.

  • That plan looks foredoomed to failure in the House.
  • "So they're going to send us a multibillion dollar package without pay-fors to secure the Ukrainian border without securing our southern border? Good luck," Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) told Axios.

Zoom in: Johnson said he will hold a revote on the House's Israel-only bill under a process that requires only a simple majority after it failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority on Tuesday.

  • However, there are doubts about whether it can clear the necessary procedural hurdles given opposition from several key Republicans on a panel that can block legislation from coming to the floor.

What we're hearing: Some Republican Ukraine hawks in the House are proposing trying to make Ukraine aid more appealing on their side of the Capitol by stripping out more than $9.5 billion in economic assistance funds.

  • "There's a bunch of us advocating for military aid," said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.). "All the rebuilding stuff, let's deal with that later. They need weapons."
  • Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) similarly floated "a standalone bill that is munitions-only," which, he said, "has a chance of passing on suspension."
  • Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has also floated trying to tuck the money into appropriations legislation funding the Pentagon.

The bottom line: House Republicans across the ideological spectrum made clear that any comprehensive package that lumps Israel, Ukraine and other priorities together is likely a non-starter – they would have to be voted on separately.

  • "You can't cobble everything together and hope everyone supports it," said Garcia.
  • Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wisc.) told Axios: "If these people are so dead-set on providing aid to Ukraine, bring a clean bill to bat. If it's so important, why are they mixing it with everything? Because they know they don't have the votes."
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