Feb 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House bipartisan group eyes $65 billion foreign aid bill

Rep. Don Bacon, wearing a dark gray suit, white shirt and pale green tie, walking through a basement hallway.

Rep. Don Bacon. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus are working on a smaller version of the Senate's foreign aid legislation, with the addition of a version of the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" policy.

Why it matters: It's an attempt to meet House GOP leadership's demand that any national security bill include a strict border security crackdown.

  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), one of the architects of the proposal, told Axios he plans to have dinner on Thursday with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).
  • The in-the-works bill hopefully "addresses [Johnson's] concerns" on border security, Bacon told Axios.

Zoom in: The roughly $65 billion proposal excludes the humanitarian aid in the Senate bill.

  • Not making the cut were the Senate bill's $10 billion for Palestinians and $9.5 billion in economic assistance to Ukraine, as well as smaller funds for domestic projects.
  • What's left is a "military-only" bill with funding for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific and U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

State of play: Johnson has said he will not give the Senate-passed $95 billion national security bill a vote in the House, despite it garnering support from 22 Senate Republicans.

  • House Democrats have floated a discharge petition – a maneuver to force House floor votes without buy-in from majority leadership – but centrist Republicans have expressed hesitance to sign on.

What he's saying: "It's about $25 billion less than the Senate bill, which speaks to a lot of folks on our side that want fiscal responsibility when we're running a $1.5 trillion deficit," Bacon told Axios in an interview at the Capitol.

  • Bacon acknowledged the group could "probably get more Democrats on board" by including aid to Palestinians, and he floated a possible amendment process to allow progressives to try to get the funding in the bill.
  • "This has the potential of being a good bipartisan bill, and I think it's a win-win," he said.

The bottom line: "If Ukraine falls, we're going to pay a lot more in the long run," Bacon told Axios.

  • "Ukraine is down to three shells a day for artillery," he added. "It's hard to win a war when you're doing that."
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