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Rule for emergency aid bill adopted with Democratic support

House passage expected Saturday, as Senate eyes cutting short its recess next week

House Rules ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., left, and new Rules Chairman Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, talk before a hearing in the Capitol on Monday.
House Rules ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., left, and new Rules Chairman Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, talk before a hearing in the Capitol on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House adopted a rule Friday to take up a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, in a bipartisan show of support that likely paves the way for passage Saturday.

With scores of Republicans opposed to Ukraine aid and furious that a border security measure was left on the sidelines, Democrats took the unusual step of backing a procedural rule from the majority party to ensure that long-stalled aid would pass.

The 316-94 vote for the rule signaled solid support for the four separate bills that make up the aid package, which also includes measures to increase sanctions on adversaries and force the divestiture of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, among other things.

Democrats provided slightly more support for the resolution than GOP lawmakers did, outnumbering Republican “yea” votes by a count of 165 to 151. There were 55 GOP “nay” votes to 39 on the Democratic side.

The rule’s structure allows members to vote for the pieces they like and against those they don’t, which helped bring along Democrats opposed to funneling unconditional military aid to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, for instance.

Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said he had concerns with that approach himself, but nevertheless it was time to act on the broader package to help key allies and stand up for democracy.

“People around the world are counting on this country to stand up and lead,” McGovern said during debate. “The eyes of the world are on this body.”

But the decision to take up a Ukraine aid measure, after months of hesitation, posed a threat to Speaker Mike Johnson’s hold on power. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has threatened to pull the trigger on her resolution to oust Johnson from the speaker’s chair if a Ukraine measure advances.

The need for bipartisan support was made clear Thursday when the Freedom Caucus, made up of 30 to 40 rebellious conservatives, announced its opposition to the rule. Republicans control the House with only a two-vote margin, so Democratic support is required to offset dozens of GOP defections.

Critics of the aid package and the rule enabling its passage said it represents another unfunded installment in a continuing overseas conflict America should extricate itself from. If any additional aid should be considered, it ought to be paired with tough border security restrictions, they argued.

“People are dying in Ukraine, yes, but the problem is they’re being funded with American debt,” Texas Rep. Chip Roy, one of the three Republicans to oppose the rule in committee late Thursday, said during debate. He added that “Americans are dying, not just Ukrainians, at the hands of wide-open borders.”

Still, Johnson, R-La., has dismissed the threat to his job, saying he had to focus on what he believes is important for the country, and top Democrats have suggested they would come to Johnson’s rescue if a floor vote on a motion to oust him occurs.

“I don’t worry. I just do my job,” Johnson said Friday. “I’m going to do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may.”

And the speaker was unable to bring a tough border bill to the floor under a rule because hard-liners wouldn’t support it if it wasn’t lashed to the Ukraine package. Instead, the chamber will vote on it under suspension of the rules, likely falling short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage on Saturday.

Recess, interrupted

Meanwhile, passage of the aid package Saturday is likely to require the Senate to give up much of its planned Passover recess next week to clear the measure quickly for President Joe Biden, who has promised to sign it.

Under the rule, the four pieces of the package will be stitched together and sent to the Senate as an amendment to that chamber’s foreign aid supplemental, which passed in February. This maneuver will allow the Senate to skip one big procedural vote — cloture on the motion to proceed — cutting down on days of floor time. Still, senators may be in for extended debate next week given several Republicans’ opposition to delivering more aid to Ukraine.

The aid bills for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region largely mirror the Senate package that will serve as the vehicle, with $60.8 billion for the Ukraine war effort and nearly $26.4 billion in military aid to Israel and humanitarian assistance for Gaza and other war-torn areas.

The Indo-Pacific 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 unlike the Senate-passed version, roughly $9.5 billion in economic aid to Ukraine would be structured as a loan, with repayment terms set by the president.

A fourth bill tacked onto the package would impose sanctions on Russia and Iran, on multinational criminal organizations for fentanyl trafficking, Iranian petroleum and missiles, among other matters. The legislation also targets the social media platform TikTok, and would give Chinese owner ByteDance Ltd. up to a year to divest the app.

The new House Rules chairman, Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, said the aid package makes significant improvements to a Senate-passed measure by including provisions such as allowing for the seizure of frozen Russian assets to help pay for Ukraine assistance.

“Weakness invites aggression,” Burgess said. “And we cannot allow our allies in the Indo-Pacific, Israel and Ukraine to be abandoned.”

The rule allows the House to consider seven amendments to the package, including one by Greene that would eliminate all funding in the $60.8 billion Ukraine bill.

Other amendments that will be considered include one to prevent any of the $7.9 billion in direct economic aid to Ukraine from being used to pay the pensions or salaries of Ukrainian government officials, and another to eliminate all of the nonmilitary funding in the Ukraine package.

“The world is watching what the Congress does,” the Biden administration said in a statement Friday urging support for the package. “Passing this legislation would send a powerful message about the strength of American leadership at a pivotal moment.”

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

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