Apr 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats warn Mike Johnson: Don't play us on foreign aid

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) takes questions during his weekly press conference on April 11. Photo: ALLISON BAILEY/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats are warning House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) that not including humanitarian aid in his foreign aid package could poison it for their side.

Why it matters: Some Republican hardliners are warning they may defect on a key procedural vote, meaning Democrats may have to save the bills.

  • "There is no circumstance that we could support anything that does not include humanitarian aid," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told Axios.

State of play: Johnson is set to unveil four separate bills, including ones providing aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

  • The fourth bill is expected to include national security-related legislation including measures to force a sale of TikTok and sell off seized Russian assets.
  • What remains unclear: Whether the fourth bill will include around $9.5 billion in humanitarian aid to Gaza and Ukraine, as well as to address food insecurity and refugee crises, that was part of the Senate's foreign aid bill.

What we're hearing: In a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, Jeffries told colleagues he has communicated to Johnson that Democrats are demanding no less than the $9.5 billion in humanitarian aid, according to two sources in the room.

  • Jeffries "has communicated that that amount of humanitarian aid has to be in the bill in order to secure Dem votes," one House Democrat said.
  • Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), who has collaborated with Republicans on foreign aid, told Axios he expects humanitarian aid to be included: "That's been discussed. $9 billion is the number."
  • "We're hearing that it's identical [to the Senate bill]. That's what we're hearing, but it's not written yet," said Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.).

What they're saying: Several Democrats echoed Jeffries in warning that a lack of humanitarian aid could be a dealbreaker for their side.

  • "They can't write the bill alone if they can't pass the bill alone. They need our votes on the rule," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).
  • Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Axios: "The leader was very clear … not anything less than $9 billion."
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