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Foreign aid supplemental unveiled in House; Biden supports

Johnson makes the call: Saturday night votes on four-pronged package, with bonus border bill

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., arrives for an interview with CNN in the Will Rogers corridor in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., arrives for an interview with CNN in the Will Rogers corridor in the Capitol on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Mike Johnson pulled the trigger Wednesday on an emergency aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, along with a separate bill on border security that came after a late night of negotiating with GOP members.

Appropriators released three separate bills for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific allies and the domestic submarine industrial base totaling $95.3 billion.

The contents are similar to the Senate-passed version, with $60.8 billion for the Ukraine war effort, and nearly $26.4 billion in military aid to Israel and humanitarian assistance for Gaza. A third bill, totaling $8.1 billion, would provide nearly $4 billion in security assistance to Taiwan and other regional allies along with money to replenish depleted U.S. stocks, $3.3 billion for submarine infrastructure and more.

But there’s a key difference: Roughly $9.5 billion in economic aid to Ukraine would be structured as a loan, with repayment terms set by the president.

The repayment requirement could be waived on an installment plan, with up to 50 percent of the loans forgiven shortly after the November elections, and the remainder starting in 2026. But Congress would get a shot to override any presidential waiver with a resolution of disapproval that’s subject to expedited procedures, with debate limited to 10 hours in the Senate and no amendments.

President Joe Biden signaled he didn’t have any problems with the new set of bills, saying he “strongly” supports the package in a statement Wednesday.

“The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow,” Biden said. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

LNG out, separate border vote

Johnson, R-La., in a text message Wednesday morning to GOP conference members, said a fourth bill would be posted later in the day. It would include measures to seize frozen Russian assets, force the divestiture of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, and impose sanctions on Russia, China and Iran, among other things.

That bill will not include a reversal of the Biden administration’s pause on new permits for liquefied natural gas exports to certain countries, despite Johnson’s push for that to be included.

Though some Democrats from fossil fuel-friendly districts support overturning Biden’s freeze, most in his party oppose such a provision, which could have caused problems attracting the Democratic votes that will be needed to overcome GOP opposition.

“We tried to put it in this package, and every package, we’ll continue to fight for that and continue to make the case, because it’s critical for our stability,” Johnson told reporters later on Wednesday.

But in a new twist, Johnson also said he would move an additional bill, handled under a separate rule, to toughen security measures at the southern U.S. border. He said the bill would contain the “core components” of HR 2, which passed the House last year over solid Democratic opposition.

The new border security bill, which is being offered as a new version of an earlier immigration-related measure, contains most of the HR 2 text minus one key piece: mandating the use of an E-Verify system for employers to confirm workers’ immigration status and eligibility to work in the U.S. That provision ran into objections from some Republicans that it would be overly burdensome to certain industries.

Instead, a new section is added to the border bill that would appropriate $9.5 billion in grants to border states for physical barriers and to reimburse law enforcement agencies or the National Guard for immigration enforcement expenses. That would be paid for by rescinding unused Commerce Department funds intended to offset regular fiscal 2025 appropriations, but with the new border bill unlikely to become law, that “pay-for” is probably safe.

Saturday votes

Johnson said final votes on the package would occur Saturday night. But both chambers are scheduled to be in recess next week, and it wasn’t clear whether the Senate would stay in session to take up the bills immediately.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested that the recess may be on the chopping block. “We don’t know when the House is sending it to us and once they do, we’ll be able to plot out where we’ll go and we have to do it … as expeditiously as possible,” Schumer said.

He said he believes the House aid package is similar to the Senate’s version, but he’d have to read it before making any final decisions.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., a vocal Ukraine aid advocate, said he would favor keeping the Senate in session to take up bills sent by the House. “We shouldn’t leave until it’s done,” he said. “Ukraine is out of bullets, and this should have been passed two months ago.”

‘Set up to fail’

The speaker’s latest proposal would still include stitching together the four measures before sending them to the Senate — if they can pass the House. The border security bill would be separate, likely giving Senate Democrats an excuse to bottle it up rather than take action on that piece.

Members of the rebellious Freedom Caucus had protested Johnson’s initial plan, announced Monday, in part because it lacked border security provisions. Johnson had promised for months that he would not allow for additional Ukraine aid without more U.S. border security.

But Freedom Caucus members who met with Johnson after the revised plan was announced appeared dug in against it. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said he wanted the border security bill tied to passage of Ukraine aid so that Democrats would be unable to block the border measure separately.

“The border is what Americans want to see fixed,” Norman told reporters. “That’s not being fixed in this. It’s set up to fail.”

Norman is a member of the Rules Committee, which must approve the parameters of debate before any package can reach the floor. Another Rules and Freedom Caucus member is Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who earlier in the day said he was a “no” vote.

“The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100 billion in foreign aid — while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists, & fentanyl pour across our border,” Roy wrote Wednesday on X, formerly Twitter. “The border ‘vote’ in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote. I will oppose.”

A third GOP Rules member, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, is so incensed by the whole situation that he’s ready to join Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., on a motion to oust Johnson. 

From left, Reps. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Chip Roy, R-Texas, are seen in Johnson’s Capitol office on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The speaker said he believed he has chosen the right path, and he is willing to risk his job to help push back against Russia’s invasion during a “critical time” on the world stage. 

“I’m willing to take personal risk for that, because we have to do the right thing, and history will judge us,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said in his text message that his revised plan had been developed “after significant Member feedback and discussion.”

But by handling the border security measure under a separate rule, the bill would not interfere with the war funding package. Democrats, whose help may be needed to adopt a rule on the foreign aid bill, could vote for that rule while opposing a border security bill rule.

Johnson told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he would not have the votes needed to adopt the rule if he were to try to combine that bill with the rest of the supplemental. 

‘Heavy moment’

House Democratic leaders did not take a position on the package Wednesday, saying they needed to talk to their caucus at a Thursday morning meeting before deciding their path forward. 

But House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., hinted that Democrats would help with procedural votes as needed to ensure the supplemental passes. 

“This is a heavy moment for the Congress, for the country, and for the free world,” he said. “So we are going to evaluate whatever process hurdles are going to be in front of us through the lens of that heavy moment and the recognition that America has to always stand on the side of values like democracy, freedom and truth.” 

Johnson has only a two-vote majority over Democrats as he tries to hold most of his conference together on an aid package. That margin was due to slip to a single vote Friday, when Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., is scheduled to leave office. But in a modest break for Johnson, Gallagher, a Ukraine aid backer, would remain in office Saturday to vote for the bills, an aide said.

Paul M. Krawzak and Briana Reilly contributed to this report.

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