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One more attempt at securing Ukraine aid is introduced before two-week House recess

The House of Representatives is set to reconvene on Feb.28, three days before the deadline to avoid a partial goverment shutdown.
Chip Somodevilla
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The House of Representatives is set to reconvene on Feb.28, three days before the deadline to avoid a partial goverment shutdown.

Updated February 20, 2024 at 2:36 PM ET

Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives are seeking a new path to foreign aid for U.S. allies after Republicans halted the passing of a foreign aid package last week.

On Friday,eight centrist Republican and Democratic lawmakers introduced a new funding bill that includes both aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, in addition to a new border security policy.

"The objective is to advance legislation that will not only defend our borders in the United States, but defend democracies around the globe," Representative Mike Lawler (R-NY) told NPR's A Martinez during an interview with Morning Edition.

Lawler told Morning Edition that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La) has not yet commented on the bill, but he hopes that the Speaker will bring the bill to the floor. Democrats in the House have already balked at the measure, which gives less foreign aid to countries than the bill the Senate passed last week.

"In a divided government, we all have to find compromise," Lawler said.

The House is now in recess for the next two weeks, and it's unclear where the the $66.3 billion bipartisan package, titled the "Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act " will stand once they are back. The House left the Capitol on Friday without taking up a Senate-approved bill that would provide $60 billion to Ukraine or commenting on this new bill.

What is in this bill?

This new bill does not include humanitarian aid for Gaza, Ukraine and other global hotspots, and reinstates the "remain in Mexico" provision known as H.R.2.

This provision would require cooperation from Mexico, which the country has rejected. The policy would require some migrants, including asylum seekers, to wait in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated. The Supreme Court upheld President Biden's decision to end the policy when he took office. The bill's backers did not provide a solution for making Mexico comply.

"That's something we'll have to work out," Representative Don Bacon (R-NE) told reporters on Friday. "I'm not an ambassador, so I have no idea how they're going to respond. Our guys want something that makes a difference on the border."

But without serious support from Democrats in the House, this bill is unlikely to pass if Johnson agrees to bring it to the floor in two weeks.

The Senate bill did not include provisions to secure the U.S.- Mexico border, but did clear the chamber with 70 Democrats and Republican senators voting yes on the bill. Johnson, however, said the bill did not "meet the moment" with the legislation, pointing out the exclusion of border security policies.

How did Democrats react to the new bill and the recess?

Before the bill was even introduced, senior Democrats urged Johnson to hold a vote on the bipartisan legislation that has already passed the Senate.

"This is clear. Mike Johnson simply needs to put the bipartisan national security bill on the House floor for an up-or-down vote, and it will pass. That's it," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said last Wednesday.

President Biden criticized GOP leadership on Monday for taking a recess so close to the two year anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war. It was the third time in four days that Biden took aim at Republicans in the House for the two week recess.

"They're walking away from the threat of Russia, they're walking away from NATO. They're walking away from meeting our obligations," Biden told reporters on Monday.

When the House reconvenes on February 28th, the main focus will probably be averting a government shutdown – they have just three days to approve spending measures to avoid a partial shutdown. The remaining agencies will need to be funded by March 8th.

The audio version of this story was produced by Ben Abrams and edited by Mohamad ElBardicy

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Mansee Khurana
[Copyright 2024 NPR]