Bipartisan group of House moderates to propose slimmed down foreign aid package

The bill removes humanitarian aid from the Senate package, which will likely make it difficult to muster the necessary Democratic support

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Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) speaks to reporters outside of the U.S. Capitol Building on September 29, 2023 in Washington, DC.

A bipartisan group of House moderates is expected to propose a new, slimmed-down version of the Senate-passed Israel aid bill. The proposed bill will remove humanitarian aid from the Senate proposal and introduce new border policy provisions, which could make it difficult to muster sufficient Democratic support. House Republican leadership has also provided no guarantees that it would see a floor vote.

According to public reports and comments by the bill’s authors, the proposal will pare back the Senate proposal from $95 billion to around $60 billion, including by removing humanitarian aid for the Palestinians and Ukraine. It maintains military aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. It’s not clear if nonprofit security grant program funds will also be on the chopping block.

The new bill is reportedly being sponsored by Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), Jared Golden (D-ME), Ed Case (D-HI), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) and Jim Costa (D-CA).

On immigration, the bill is expected to contain language reimplementing the Remain in Mexico policy, a Trump administration program the Biden administration sought to rescind. The policy, which will have to be renegotiated with the Mexican government, released those seeking asylum in the U.S. into Mexico pending the outcome of their asylum hearings in the U.S., rather than allowing them to remain in the U.S. pending the outcome of the proceedings.

House Republicans had pushed for the language to be included in the now-scuttled Senate immigration deal.

Fitzpatrick, in an NBC News interview, downplayed the idea of trying to circumvent Republican leadership to hold a vote on the bill. He instead suggested that the bill could be brought to the floor under a procedure allowing votes on multiple similar proposals, with the most popular being adopted. He predicted the bill could gain strong bipartisan support and was the only realistic bipartisan path forward.

But far-right members of the Republican caucus opposed to any Israel aid say any Ukraine aid is still a nonstarter for them.

And some moderate pro-Israel Democrats also expressed skepticism, in part the proposal provides no humanitarian support for the Palestinian people, which they said will be a nonstarter for most of their caucus. Senate Democrats have also rejected the idea of eliminating humanitarian support.

Many Democratic votes will be needed for any Ukraine package, given that around half of House Republicans oppose sending additional aid to Ukraine.

“Anything is worthwhile to make sure that we have the appropriate funding package for Israel, for Ukraine, for our Asian partners,” Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) told Jewish Insider of the effort. “But also, we’ve got to realize — let’s look at the problems with the last one, and why we didn’t get that over the finish line. And one of the reasons was because it didn’t have humanitarian aid.”

Panetta was referring to the Israel-only package that the House unsuccessfully voted on last week.

He said that there are “plenty of members,” including him, who would likely have voted for the Israel-only package if it also included humanitarian aid. But he said that the four issues — Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and humanitarian aid — should remain connected.

Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH) emphasized that the Senate package garnered 70 bipartisan votes and said he anticipates that, at the end of the day, it will make it through the House.

“My sense is that it will pass because the alternative is way too problematic, not just for the Congress, for the United States, but for global stability,” Landsman told JI.

But some Democrats said they’d likely support a scaled-down package. Rep. Don Davis (D-NC), who voted in favor of both of the House’s stand-alone Israel aid bills.

“We’re getting at a critical time to provide assistance to Israel, but not only Israel,” Davis told reporters, saying that Ukraine, Taiwan and increased border security are also critical. “I would be open towards, right now, any alternatives that’s going to help us come closer to safeguarding the American people, especially our servicemen and women.”

Washington is also continuing to speculate about procedural maneuvers that Democrats could use, in concert with pro-Ukraine Republicans, to force a floor vote on the Senate bill.

One idea getting increased attention: If Democrats can convince some Republicans to vote with them on a routine procedural vote, known as the previous question, they could, in essence, temporarily take control of the House floor from Republican leadership and then potentially put forward the Senate bill.

It would be a faster maneuver than another proposed option, a discharge petition — which could take weeks to come to fruition — but it could face similar obstacles: Democrats would have to convince moderate Republicans to defy GOP leadership.

So far, only one Republican, Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC), has said publicly that he’s considering working with Democrats to bring the Senate bill to the House floor. 

Meanwhile, some anti-Israel progressives have said they won’t support the Israel aid package or procedural moves to force a House floor vote on the bill, meaning Democrats will need to pick up more GOP votes for any procedural gambit they might hope to pursue, making the prospect even more difficult.

Landsman said that Democratic leadership is mounting “as serious a campaign as it gets” to bring the bill to the floor, and that “everything will be exhausted — every partner brought in, every member spoken to, everything that could work will be tried. It’s all hands on deck.”

He said he expects that lawmakers will also see a push from the U.S.’ global partners as well.

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