House Dems Try to Force Floor Vote on Ukraine Aid

House Dems Try to Force Floor Vote on Ukraine Aid

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

With billions of dollars in additional aid for Ukraine stuck in congressional limbo given Speaker Mike Johnson’s refusal to allow a vote on a Senate-passed bill, lawmakers on Tuesday formally launched a pair of long-shot attempts to force such a vote.

The plans require 218 House members to sign what’s known as a discharge petition, a maneuver to bypass Johnson and bring legislation to a floor vote.

One petition, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, would force a vote on the $95.3 billion foreign aid package passed by the Senate last month in a 70-29 vote that saw 22 Republicans join with Democrats in support of delivering more funding to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The McGovern petition went live on Tuesday morning and quickly garnered the support of dozens of lawmakers — though the 169 signatures it had by evening was still short of the total needed.

“What we're asking our colleagues — Democrats and Republicans — is to sign the discharge petition that will bring to the floor the Senate national security bipartisan supplemental,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar of California told reporters. “That is the fastest and easiest way to solve this issue.”

It’s unlikely to be fast or easy, though. Democrats hold 213 seats in the House, meaning that they’d need at least five Republicans to cross the aisle — and likely more because progressives may withhold their support in opposition to providing more funding for Israel and the war in Gaza. “I'm not going to sign a discharge petition with Israel aid, that's my problem," Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Axios. Republicans, meanwhile, insist that the package won’t go anywhere without border security measures.

The Democratic effort may also be complicated by the existence of another Ukraine-related discharge petition, sponsored by Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, which also went live Tuesday. Fitzpatrick co-chairs the Problem Solvers Caucus and his petition would require a vote on a smaller, $66 billion bipartisan aid package negotiated by House centrists that does include some border security provisions, including a policy requiring migrants seeking asylum to stay in Mexico until their immigration court hearing.

“Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican who co-sponsored the Fitzpatrick bill, said Tuesday the Democrats' version is dead on arrival and predicted about 150 Republicans and 100 Democrats would support Fitzpatrick's,” CBS News reports.

The Fitzpatrick bill may have bipartisan backing — and the congressman is reportedly working to modify the legislation to broaden its appeal — but as of Tuesday afternoon, it only had 12 signatures, and Aguilar questioned the level of support it could ultimately win. Aguilar added that the Fitzpatrick bill does not include humanitarian aid and would still have to be approved by the Senate. “That could take weeks or months to deliver the critical aid that’s necessary,” he said.

McConnell pushes Johnson for a vote: Democrats continue to call on Johnson to allow the House to take up the Senate bill, insisting that it would pass with at least 300 votes. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been a vocal proponent of assisting Ukraine, again called on the speaker, a fellow Republican, to allow such a vote. Johnson has insisted that securing the southern border with Mexico must come first, though he also helped defeat a bipartisan Senate border security bill.

“I want to encourage the speaker again to allow a vote," McConnell said Tuesday. "Let the House speak on the supplemental that we sent over to them several weeks ago.”

Asked if he supported a House Republican effort to structure some aid to Ukraine as a loan, McConnell added: “The only way to get relief to the Ukrainians and the Israelis quickly is for the House to figure out how to pass the Senate bill. … We don’t have time for all of this. We’ve got a bill that got 70 votes. Give members of the House an opportunity to vote on it. That’s the solution.”

Biden administration announces a new aid package: As the congressional stalemate over a foreign aid package drags on, the Biden administration announced Tuesday that it had found a way to send Ukraine another $300 million worth of weapons under presidential drawdown authority, reportedly the first such assistance since a $250 million package in late December, which was funded the previous year.

“Defense officials said they were able to come up with the funding through savings in long-term contracts with weapons makers, but they described it as a one-time arrangement,” NBC News reports.

Officials also said that the Pentagon needs at least $10 billion more to replenish its stocks of weapons sent to Ukraine.