Feb 13, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Democrats face tough odds of forcing foreign aid vote

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, wearing a dark gray plaid suit and white shirt, speaks at a podium with the seal of the president in front of an American flag.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Photo: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

House Democrats appear far short of the support they need to bypass Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and force a vote on the Senate's bill to aid Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Why it matters: Even centrist Republicans who are staunchly supportive of the Ukraine aid in the bill are hesitant to break with their leadership.

  • "My first step is to work with the speaker and go from there," said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), of the GOP's most vocal Ukraine hawks.
  • Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), who represents a district President Biden won in 2020, told Axios he is “very reserved about undermining [the] speaker."

Zoom in: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Democrats "will use every available legislative tool" to bring the bill to the floor.

  • One of those tools is a discharge petition, which, if signed by 218 House members, can circumvent majority leadership and force bills to a vote.
  • Asked about a discharge petition on Tuesday, Jeffries told reporters: "All options are on the table."

Zoom out: Modern partisanship places immense pressure on lawmakers not to break with party leadership and hand control of the floor to the other side.

  • So far, not a single House Republicans has said they would join a discharge petition.
  • Johnson told reporters on Tuesday he "certainly" opposes a discharge petition and hopes "that would not be considered."

What we're hearing: Democrats acknowledge the maneuver would require at least a handful of Republicans signatures – and likely more, given progressive opposition to Israel aid. But they're skeptical.

  • "Who knows if [Republicans] ever actually come through and sign something," said one senior House Democrat. "I'm suspicious that there are enough of them who have the courage to do that."
  • "Hope springs eternal," quipped another House Democrat.
  • A centrist House Republican predicted "not many" of their moderate and swing-district colleagues would sign on, noting that Jeffries also "has [issues with] his own people."

Between the lines: House conservatives expect their moderate colleagues to fold.

  • "I don't think they'll do that," Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), the chair of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, said of a discharge petition.
  • "I've heard that how many times last year? We heard moderates or establishment types claim that they're going to sign a discharge petition," Good said.
  • The Freedom Caucus chair added that "unfortunately that tactic strikes fear in the hearts of some people," but "I don't fear that."
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