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Feb 7, 2024, 9:43pm EST
politics

‘Trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together’: Lawmakers weigh how to pass Ukraine aid

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
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The News

Pro-Ukraine lawmakers are weighing options to muscle a foreign aid package through the Republican-controlled House, where House Speaker Mike Johnson has not committed to a path forward for billions in assistance to support Kyiv’s war effort and economy.

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Wednesday that “several Republicans who are not in leadership” had reached out to Democrats to work together on passing a national security package combining aid to Ukraine, Israel, and allies in the Asia Pacific.

Jeffries also privately told members on the floor Tuesday night that Democrats were talking to Republicans about a “discharge petition,” according to a Democratic aide. The procedure can force a vote on bills that have majority support in the House after a measure sits for at least 30 legislative days.

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Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told Semafor that some members were also discussing using the “previous question” — a parliamentary procedure used to end debate on a proposal and bring it to a vote — to pass an aid package. But Smith acknowledged that he didn’t “fully understand” the way it would work. He also said he doubted there would be a need for it, expressing hope that Johnson would bring up Ukraine aid — either as part of a broader package or alone — for a vote.

“Everything fell apart yesterday and now we’re … trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and we’ll see how that goes,” Smith said, referring to the collapse of a bipartisan border agreement that was supposed to ride along with the foreign aid package and make it easier to get Republican votes.

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Know More

The Senate voted 58-to-41 to advance a national security package containing aid for Ukraine and Israel on Wednesday and could wrap up work on it by the end of the week. However, it’s unclear whether the measure will find the 60 votes necessary to move further tomorrow; some Republicans are still demanding the opportunity to offer border-related amendments to the bill, after their party killed the bipartisan deal on the measure.

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“We will adjourn until tomorrow and give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Wednesday. “We will be coming back tomorrow at noon and hopefully that will give the Republicans the time they need. We will have this vote tomorrow.”

Johnson, who is insisting that the pieces of the foreign aid package be considered separately, said Wednesday that the House would wait to see what the Senate passes.

“We’re allowing the process to play out and we’ll handle it as it is sent over,” he said.

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However, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. said that Johnson communicated to him that he wouldn’t take up the Senate’s version of the bill.

“He said he is not going to take it up,” he told Semafor. “He’ll take the bills up separately.”

House Republicans are fractured when it comes to support for Ukraine, with a growing number who have opposed assistance to Kyiv in past votes. Democrats sought a bipartisan deal on border security in the Senate in order to unlock a vote on Ukraine assistance, but House and Senate Republicans rejected the proposal, leaving Ukraine aid in doubt.

“The speaker is trying but we don’t have a unified position,” one GOP lawmaker told Semafor.

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The View From Ukraine aid opponents

Some conservatives who oppose more money for Kyiv are warning Johnson not to put Ukraine aid to a vote in the House.

“He would greatly disappoint the base and people would be furious,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. told reporters Wednesday. “Our border is the number one priority and senators and congressmen here in Washington are busy trying to send more American taxpayer dollars when we’re over $34 trillion in debt to fund people’s foreign wars, they are way off. They aren’t even in sync with Americans.”

But it’s not clear that Johnson would be at any real risk of losing his job simply for bringing an aid package to the floor. Greene is the only House member to have suggested that she would consider attempting to oust the speaker over the issue by filing a motion to vacate, much as conservatives toppled former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

But on Wednesday, she appeared to downplay the threat.

“I have not said that yet,” Greene said when asked if she would consider filing a motion to Johnson. “I will definitely talk with our Speaker first and see where he’s at on those issues. And we just haven’t had a chance to have those meetings yet.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. said he opposes further Ukraine aid but said Johnson wouldn’t get booted for allowing a vote on it.

“I don’t think anyone is talking about that,” he told Semafor.

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The View From Ukraine aid supporters

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. said he was confident Ukraine aid would pass Congress, given three powerful committee chairman — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio — are all proponents of sending more assistance to Kyiv to fight Russia.

However, Rogers told Bloomberg on Wednesday that the House would not approve military assistance for Ukraine unless President Biden reinstates the “remain in Mexico” policy at the border.

Kadia Goba and Joseph Zeballos-Roig contributed.

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