Dueling discharge petitions for Israel aid open for signatures in the House

House Democrats and a bipartisan group led by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick are seeking to sidestep House Republican leadership to bring an Israel and Ukraine aid bill to a House vote

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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.

Parallel discharge petitions filed by House Democrats and a bipartisan group led by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) — each seeking a House vote on an Israel and Ukraine aid package in defiance of House Republican leadership — opened for signatures on Tuesday.

The discharge petitions are one of the few pathways that lawmakers can move bills — in this case, the Senate’s bipartisan foreign aid bill or a new aid bill proposal led by Fitzpatrick and others — to the House floor without the support of Republican leadership. Either proposal would require bipartisan support for success, needing the signatures of a majority of House members.

The Democratic petition, led by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) had garnered 169 signatures, all Democrats, as of Tuesday evening. 

Either petition will need at least some Republican signatories to succeed. Some House progressives, such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), an Israel critic who chairs the Progressive Caucus, won’t support a bill with aid to Israel, according to Axios.

Moderate Republicans are, so far, putting their support behind Fitzpatrick’s petition. 

As of Tuesday evening, it had 12 signatures, six Republicans and six Democrats: Reps. Fitzpatrick, Mike Lawler (R-NY), Jared Golden (D-ME), Don Bacon (R-NE), Nick LaLota (R-NY), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Ed Case (D-HI), Don Davis (D-NC), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) and Jim Costa (D-CA).

All of the Democratic signatories, except Golden, have also signed the Democratic discharge petition.

Fitzpatrick is reportedly still amending some details of his proposed package, which initially includes less aid for Israel than the Senate-passed bill, no humanitarian aid and no funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

Fitzpatrick is reportedly considering adding humanitarian aid for Gaza, a must-have for Democrats, and applying “lend-lease” language to the aid for Israel and other allies, which would ask them to return or repay the U.S. for the aid in the long term, according to Punchbowl News.

Some Senate Republicans — facing pressure from former President Donald Trump — had made a last-minute demand to convert U.S. aid into a loan as the Senate was working on its version of the bill, and that change could help pick up some additional GOP votes. But other GOP Ukraine hawks want to limit lease programs to humanitarian and budget aid for Ukraine.

Another skeptic of the lease approach is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who called for the House to bring up the Senate-passed supplemental bill.

“The only way to get relief to the Ukrainians and the Israelis quickly is for them to figure out how to pass the Senate bill,” McConnell said at a Tuesday press conference. “Anything that’s changed and sent back here… even the simplest thing can take a week in the Senate. We don’t have time for all of this. We’ve got a bill that got 70 votes in the Senate. Give members of the House of Representatives an opportunity to vote on it. That’s the solution.”

McConnnell’s comments are particularly noteworthy given that he’s generally reticent to make public recommendations on strategy to House leadership.

House Republicans chairing key national security committees are also reportedly working on a third version of the bill, for introduction after the government funding deadline near the end of the month. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has not guaranteed a vote on that bill either.

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