Aid proposal

Fitzpatrick says he’ll pursue bipartisan workaround measure for slimmed-down foreign aid bill

House Democrats continue to say that the alternative aid proposal isn’t viable, calling on the House to take up the Senate-passed bill

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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.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) said on Thursday that he is pursuing a bipartisan procedural mechanism, known as a discharge petition, to try to force a vote on the House floor on his slimmed-down version of a bill to provide aid to Israel and other U.S. allies.

Democratic leadership, however is maintaining its support for the larger, Senate-passed aid bill, making it unlikely that Fitzpatrick’s legislation — which would provide less military aid for Israel and no humanitarian aid for Palestinians or security grants for domestic nonprofits and religious institutions — will come to the floor.

Fitzpatrick said that the bill and the discharge petition are primarily meant “to apply a pressure point to get something done soon.”

He explained, “We just want some Ukraine funding bill to pass the House — whether that’s ours [or another bill].” He said he’s personally supportive of the Senate-passed bill but is not sure that it can muster 218 votes because it doesn’t include border security provisions.

He acknowledged that many Democrats oppose his bill because it lacks humanitarian aid for Ukraine and Gaza, but argued that military aid for Ukraine is the most important focus at the moment. He said he’s open to adding humanitarian aid, however, if it can muster sufficient support.

“We’ll take all the feedback and get it right,” he said, emphasizing that he’s open to amendments on the House floor if his bill gets to that point.

Democratic leaders continue to brush aside Fitzpatrick’s proposal, which is supported by four Democrats and three other Republicans, as misguided.

“They are well-meaning, they really are, and these are thoughtful individuals, but I just don’t think that this is the solution,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), the No. 3 House Democrat, said at a press conference. “I think the solution is very clear — it is the bipartisan solution that has 70 votes out of the United States Senate… Getting the Senate to take up anything new would be weeks or months.”

House Republicans remain publicly vague on their plans going forward, largely reiterating their view that the House can’t consider foreign aid until after passing 2024 government funding — now set to expire on March 22 — and without addressing border security.

“The Senate took four months to try to put a bill together… We’ve had their bill for a week and a half. The House is actively considering options on a path forward,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said at a press conference. “But our first responsibility is to fund the government and our primary, overriding responsibility — has been for the last three years — is to secure the border. And so we’re getting the government funding done and then we’re going to turn to these other priorities.”

“We’ve got to fix America first, we’ve got to focus on America’s security,” he continued.

On the other side of the Hill, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) suggested a “grand bargain” including most of the hardline immigration policies that Republicans have pursued in exchange for the foreign aid bill. That’s not likely a plan that will succeed with most Democrats.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, appeared to issue a warning to Israel and the administration over aid to Israel in a Senate floor speech, noting that it’s subject to U.S. laws that would cut off aid to units that violate human rights law.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a close ally of President Joe Biden, who is also the top lawmaker on the Appropriations panel covering foreign aid, said on CNN that he’s open to placing conditions on future U.S. aid to Israel depending on its prosecution of its campaign in Rafah.

“If [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu goes ahead with a full-scale ground offensive against Rafah without having provided significant changes in how civilians are treated and how civilians are protected, and how humanitarian aid is being delivered? Yes, I would [support conditions],” Coons said. “If they go ahead with a full-scale ground campaign into Rafah without taking into account their obligation under international law to protect civilians and to facilitate the distribution of aid, yes.”

And, responding, to the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza City at an aid distribution site on Thursday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in a statement that Israel should “immediately pause military operations for a period of time necessary to get this humanitarian nightmare under control,” further calling on the administration to “use all available leverage” to push both Israel and Hamas “to urgently reach an agreement to secure a longer-term cessation of hostilities.”

But he also said that “Hamas started this war and could end it tomorrow by releasing the hostages and surrendering those responsible for the October 7th attacks.”

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