Apr 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Enraged Democrats mull bailout for GOP's foreign aid package

Hakeem Jeffries, wearing a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and magenta tie, and Mike Johnson, wearing a blue suit, light blue shirt and blue and white striped tie, holding candles and walking down the House steps.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

House Democrats were incensed at the Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan aid plan House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) rolled out on Monday — but they are not ruling out saving it if necessary.

Why it matters: Several Republican hardliners who are opposed to Ukraine aid and irked by a lack of border security language have not ruled out sabotaging a key procedural vote that typically passes along party lines.

  • "I have a hard time believing we're going to give something to Ukraine without doing our border," said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).
  • Some are also perturbed about the process: Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) said it is "a process to a predetermined outcome ... designed to appear open."
  • "I think it's going to take Democrats to pass the rule," one House Democrat told Axios.

Driving the news: The House is expected to hold four separate votes, including on aid packages for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

  • A fourth bill is expected to include a grab-bag of national security-related measures, including bills forcing Chinese divestment from TikTok and selling off seized Russian assets.
  • The fate of several elements of the Senate's $95 billion foreign aid package is unclear, including humanitarian aid for Palestinians and refugees in countries across the world.
  • The four bills are expected to come to the House floor under what's known as a "rule," which allows them to pass by a simple majority but typically passes along party lines.

What they're saying: The predominant reaction of Democrats on Monday was irritation that Johnson is not simply holding a vote on the Senate bill.

  • "We have delayed this now for months, because this party is so dysfunctional ... they're constantly trying to pander to every faction," former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told Axios.
  • Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said "like everything these guys do, it's an exercise in improvisation ... it just speaks to the recklessness and cluelessness of this Republican majority."
  • "They just can't bring themselves to do the right thing, the obvious thing, put the damn Senate bill on the floor," Huffman added.

Yes, but: Several moderate and swing-district Democrats signaled that they would be open to voting for the rule through gritted teeth if necessary.

  • "This is one of the most critical votes that we'll take, so I'm very open to whatever it takes to get this done," said Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio).
  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) told Axios: "Republicans have played politics with this ... for six months. I would hope that my colleagues don't play politics with it either."
  • "Look, I mean, the people back home, they want bipartisanship and I want to give it to them," said Rep. Eric Sorensen (D-Ill.).

Between the lines: "It is a desperate situation in Ukraine, and Democrats are very driven to get aid to Ukraine at this point," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

What to watch: Some Democrats said their votes would likely depend on the inclusion of humanitarian aid in the bill.

  • Hoyer said excising that funding would be "irresponsible" and "inimical to the interests of the United States."
  • "It's very hard for me to vote for a rule under any circumstances, but to vote for a rule ... without the humanitarian issues, that's going to be very hard," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

Flashback: Democrats have already bailed out Republicans once in the 118th Congress on a bipartisan bill to raise the debt ceiling last May.

  • Just as in that situation, many Democratic lawmakers suggested the word of Democratic leadership, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in particular, will be tantamount to gospel.
  • A Democratic leadership aide told Axios that Jeffries is likely to keep his cards close to his chest as the process plays out.
Go deeper