Feb 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House bipartisan group unveils $66 billion foreign aid bill

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, wearing a white shirt and blue pants and holding a white coffee cup, walks through a white brick basement hallway.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

A bipartisan group of House members on Friday rolled out a $66 billion national security package that would provide aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Why it matters: The bill includes border restrictions meant to appeal to the House Republicans who have been the chief obstacle to such legislation.

Details: The 30-page "Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act'' would automatically reject migrants who legally or illegally cross the border without proper paperwork for one year —restricting asylum, but with humanitarian exceptions.

  • The bill also blocks the use of federal funds to transfer migrants between detention centers or other locations unless it is for adjudicating their immigration case.
  • It would also implement a Trump-era policy that required migrants and asylum seekers be turned back to Mexico to await their court hearings. The policy requires cooperation from the Mexican government and cannot simply be enforced from the U.S. side.

By the numbers: The bill includes $47.7 billion in aid to Ukraine, $10.4 billion for Israel and $4.9 billion for U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific to combat China.

  • It also includes $2.4 billion for recent U.S. military operations in the Middle East to combat Iran-backed militias in the region.
  • The bill, led by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine), has six additional co-sponsors: three Republicans and three Democrats, all centrist members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.

The backdrop: The bill is the result of House Republican leadership's refusal to accede to two attempts by the Senate to hand them foreign aid legislation.

  • A bipartisan Senate group unveiled national security bill that included border restrictions – the result of months of negotiations – but House conservatives swiftly rejected the border provisions as inadequate.
  • The Senate then passed a trimmed-down version, only for House Republicans to refuse to put it on the floor for a vote due to the lack of border policy or funding.

What they're saying: "An indefinite impasse in the House after the Senate has acted is not acceptable. Clearly any measure to break this impasse and pass Congress must be bipartisan," Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), one of the co-sponsors, said in a statement.

  • Golden defended the border provisions, saying in a statement "Congress must secure the border" and that the bill would provide U.S. Border Patrol with a tool it "needs to reassert control and do their jobs."

Reality check: Many House conservatives have demanded nothing short of the sweeping, Trump-era border bill that House Republicans passed last May.

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has also said she would personally lead the effort to oust Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) if he puts a bill with Ukraine funds on the House floor.
  • The bill will also likely face widespread skepticism among Democrats in both the House and the Senate over its strict border provisions and lack of humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

What we're hearing: A House Republican told Axios the bill will "help" the effort to pass foreign aid and that GOP leadership "welcomes it," but added, "We [will] see if they go for it."

  • One House Democrat, however, said "the momentum will be behind what 70 Republican and Democratic senators passed," referring to the Senate foreign aid bill that includes aid to Palestinians.

Axios' Stef Kight contributed reporting to this story.

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