Apr 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: How a key skeptic got behind Democrats' Ukraine aid push

Rep. Jared Golden, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and blue tie, stands at a podium flanked by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, in a gray suit, and Don Davis, in a blue suit, in front of American and U.S. House of Representatives flags.

Rep. Jared Golden, flanked by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Don Davis. Photo: Tierney L. Cross/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Before getting on board with his party's push to force a vote on foreign aid, Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) had a stipulation for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.): Give my competing, bipartisan effort a serious look.

Why it matters: It's a window into the all-hands-on-deck effort House Democrats are undertaking to unify their party and place pressure on Republicans to pass aid for Ukraine.

State of play: Golden brings Democrats to 195 out of 218 signatures needed to force a vote on the Senate's $95 billion Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan aid bill.

What he's saying: Golden, a co-chair of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition and a habitual skeptic of single-party discharge petitions, said he sat down with Jeffries before signing the petition on Friday — a month after it was launched.

  • "I remain skeptical that they will get enough Republicans on it to get to 218," Golden told Axios in a phone interview on Saturday.
  • So, he made a proposal: "I'll go ahead and sign this, but if we don't get to 218 by the end of next week, I want you to sit down with Brian Fitzpatrick and I to talk about our bill."

Zoom in: Asked if Jeffries agreed to his precondition, Golden said "he's already talked to Brian before, and I think he'll do so again."

  • A Jeffries spokesperson wouldn't rule out the Democratic leader meeting with Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in the coming weeks, but declined to confirm that Jeffries agreed to a sit down or any firm timeframe.

The context: Golden and Fitzpatrick have a separate discharge petition on their $66 billion "munitions-only" foreign aid bill.

  • The petition has signatures from 10 House Republicans and six Democrats — more bipartisan than Democrats' petition but much further short of 218.
  • The bill is a tougher sell for Democrats due to its border security provisions and lack of humanitarian aid for Ukraine or Gaza.
  • "Obviously they feel like the time is now that Republicans are going to sign onto the discharge for the Senate bill," Golden said. "We'll see if they're right, but if they're not, I think ... our bill is the best path forward."

What's next: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) had been expected to roll out separate legislation from the GOP side for Ukraine and Israel aid this month and hold a vote, but he has not unveiled any bills or timeline so far.

  • But Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a staunch Ukraine supporter, told Axios that Johnson "is trying hard to get [a vote] this week. As long as [the] speaker is committed, I think most will stand behind his efforts."
  • Another House Republican told Axios the GOP's Ukraine supporters are "prepared to move if necessary" on signing the bipartisan petition in greater numbers, but "we think next week we move something."

The bottom line: One way or another, Golden and other Democrats are united around the need for immediate action to address Ukraine's increasingly dire situation.

  • "If, at the end of next week, nothing has come to the floor for Ukraine, that means nothing will until May, right? That's a problem," Golden said.

Go deeper: Inside the operation to shore up House Democrats' rift on Ukraine and Israel aid

Go deeper