House Democrats help push Ukraine, Israel aid bills toward finish line

By Darryl Coote & Ehren Wynder
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. On Friday, the House voted to open debate on Johnson's four separate foreign aid bills. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. On Friday, the House voted to open debate on Johnson's four separate foreign aid bills. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI. | License Photo

April 19 (UPI) -- The Republican-controlled House on Friday advanced legislation to send funding to Ukraine and other foreign allies with support from Democrats needed to overcome objections by GOP hardliners.

The full House voted 316 to 94 to open debate on a series of bills that include military funding to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as well as humanitarian aid for Gaza. Democrats ended up carrying the vote -- 165 in favor to 39 opposed, compared with Republicans' 151 yes votes and 55 no votes.


The successful rule vote clears the way for final passage of the bills, which the House plans to decide in two separate votes Saturday afternoon.

The bipartisan vote brings Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., closer to passing the hotly contested foreign aid package, which members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have opposed due to their exclusion of border security and Johnson's reliance on Democratic support.


Johnson said if the rule hadn't passed Friday, the House would have to pass the Senate's version of the bill, which he called a "blank check for foreign aid."

"Even though it's not the perfect legislation, it's not the legislation that we worked, [that] we would write if Republicans were in charge of the House, the Senate and the White House, this is the best possible product that we can get under these circumstances, to take care of these really important obligations," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated the Senate could be ready to vote on the measure this weekend. President Joe Biden said he would sign the bill into law.

Friday's vote comes after the House Rules Committee on Thursday evening advanced the long-stalled bills, also with the support of Democrats.

The panel voted 9 to 3 to adopt a rule to move three supplemental appropriation bills for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific to the full House along with a fourth bill that includes an assortment of national security measures.

Together, the bills are worth about $95 billion, with more than $60 billion earmarked for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan and other allies in the Indo-Pacific.

All Democrats voted in favor of the rule.

Republican Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of South Carolina were the only lawmakers to vote against it over opposition to the absence of funding for the border in the four bills.

"Speaker Johnson is plowing forward with $100 billion in security assistance for other countries while breaking his promise to Americans that our border would come first," Massie said Wednesday on X.

The House Freedom Caucus, which Massie, Roy and Norman are members of, had called on Republicans ahead of the vote Thursday to oppose the bills.

"The House Freedom Caucus will vote NO on rule for the 'America Last' foreign wars supplemental package with zero border security, and urge all House Republicans to do the same," it said. "To secure the border, we must kill the rule."


The vote was held as pressure was mounting on Johnson to bring to the floor legislation to fund the militaries of Ukraine and Israel following last weekend's attack by Iran on Israel and as Kyiv's weaponry runs out.

Biden initially called on Congress for emergency funding for Ukraine in August, but was stonewalled by Republicans seeking to negotiate more border security funding and stricter immigration policies from the White House.

After Hamas launched its bloody surprise attack on Israel in October, the bill was revised to include funding for the U.S. ally. In February, the Democrat-led Senate passed the $95 billion supplemental aid bill, which then sat on Johnson's desk for months as some far-right Republicans have threatened to oust him if he aids Democrats in continuing to fund Ukraine.

To their anger, Johnson earlier this week announced that instead of bringing the Senate-passed bill to the floor he unveiled four separate bills.

"I'm doing here what I believe to be the right thing. I think providing aid to Ukraine right now is really important, I really do," Johnson said Wednesday in a press conference.

"To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys."


The White House has for months tried to get Congress to act on supplying funding to Ukraine, and has tried to assuage worries in Kyiv that assistance will soon be on its way as its weapons supplies deplete.

In a statement Wednesday, Biden said he "strongly" supports the package of bills.

"The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow," he said in a statement. "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."

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