Ukraine Aid Bill Clears Critical Hurdle in the House as Democrats Supply the Votes

Ukraine Aid Bill Clears Critical Hurdle in the House as Democrats Supply the Votes

The House of Representatives took a crucial step Friday toward approving a long-stalled aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other American allies, as Democrats provided crucial votes to push the bill past Republican opposition for consideration in the full House could be.

The 316-94 vote cleared the way for the House to take up the relief package, with each of its parts being voted on separately on Saturday. But passage of these measures, each with bipartisan support from diverse coalitions, was not in doubt, making Friday’s measures a key indicator that the legislation will prevail.

The rule for considering the bill – historically a straight party-line vote – passed with more Democratic than Republican support, but also won a majority of the GOP vote, making clear it was passed despite a range of deep opposition from the Far-right opposition gives broad bipartisan support for the $95.3 billion package.

The vote was a huge victory in the long effort to fund Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression, a key priority of President Biden that has faced fierce opposition from the right. It was a triumph against the forces of isolationism within the Republican Party and an important moment of bipartisan consensus in a Congress largely defined by its dysfunction over the past year.

But that only happened after Speaker Mike Johnson, who put his own job on the line to push through the plan over his party’s objections, was forced, in a significant breach of House mores, to appeal to Democrats about his position even further jeopardized paved the way for the vote and passage of the law.

In the House, Democrats withheld their votes until it was clear there wasn’t enough Republican support to pass the measure without their support, and then their “yes” votes started pouring in. Ultimately, 165 Democrats voted for the measure, more than the 149 Republicans who supported it.

“Democrats will once again be the adults in the room, and I am so glad that Republicans are finally recognizing the gravity of the situation and the urgency with which we must act,” said Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat in the House Election Campaign Rules Committee. “But you don’t get any awards here for doing your damn job.”

Mr. McGovern blamed a “MAGA minority that refuses to compromise” for the long delay in delivering aid to Ukraine. But he said Democrats provided the votes needed to advance the legislation because “there is so much more at stake here than petty partisanship.”

It was the second time during this Congress that Republicans had to rely on House Democrats’ votes to pass any legislation to address a critical issue. They did this last year to allow a vote to suspend the debt ceiling law and prevent a catastrophic federal default. In that vote, 29 Republicans voted against the rule. On Friday, 55 Republicans voted against their own speaker’s agenda.

Republicans also needed Democrats to pass several important pieces of legislation. They include several spending measures to keep the government funded and the annual defense bill after a far-right revolt against restrictions it sought on abortion access, transgender care and racial diversity and inclusion policies at the Pentagon had.

Many Republicans spoke in favor of the bill to send aid to Ukraine and Israel on Friday. Rep. Michael Burgess, Republican of Texas and chairman of the rules panel, said he wanted the Biden administration to provide more information about how previous aid money was used and its long-term goals for ending the conflict in Ukraine.

He said Republicans would continue to push for accountability, but acknowledged that “we’re at a tipping point today. Lack of help could cost us a lot more down the road, and I don’t want that to become a reality.”

But the far-right wing of the Republican Party, which had great power with a narrow majority, opposed the bill.

“I’m concerned that the speaker has made a deal with Democrats to fund foreign wars instead of securing our border,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, one of the bill’s most vocal opponents threatened to vote to oust Mr. Johnson because of this.

To circumvent opposition from members of his own party, Mr Johnson split the package into three parts and added a fourth bill to sweeten the deal for the Conservatives.

The rule was crucial to Mr. Johnson’s strategy because it allows separate votes on aid to Israel and aid to Ukraine, which are supported by different coalitions, but then combines them without lawmakers making a positive or negative vote The entire bill must be voted on.

That made it the only all-or-nothing vote MPs face on the foreign aid package, making it in many ways more important than any votes on individual parts of the plan. The measure also includes a package of sweeteners, including a bill that would require TikTok to be sold by its Chinese owner or ban the app in the United States.

“This was all pre-cooked,” raged Representative Chip Roy, a right-wing Republican from Texas, as he rose to oppose the rule. “That’s why President Biden and Chuck Schumer praise it.”

Friday’s crucial vote came after Republicans on the House Rules Committee were also forced to rely on Democrats’ votes late Thursday night to move the legislation from committee to the House floor. The far-right lawmakers who tried to block the rule in committee — Mr. Massie, Mr. Roy and Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina — opposed it because it would not allow a vote on tough border security provisions that they say should take precedence over aid for Ukraine.

Under the rule passed Friday, Republicans will be given two options to zero or limit funding to Ukraine, but that effort is expected to fail.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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2024-04-19 18:17:21