Rep. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.,
Lawmakers are jockeying over the best path forward. Al Drago/AP

Why a Fight Over Process Could Derail Ukraine Aid

Three different proposals are currently circulating the Hill.

Most members say they want to do something that would get aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan as quickly as possible. But they might get in their own way, as three separate proposals are currently being floated in the House, and lawmakers are jockeying over the best path forward.

The options on the table include a “bare bones” bipartisan discharge petition from Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and Democrat Jared Golden, a discharge petition from Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern that would be identical to the Senate’s bill, and a “House version” of the Senate bill led by Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul.

“This is literally U.S. domestic security and world peace on the line here, and we felt that we needed to step up and offer a solution to show the intersection of where Democrats and Republicans, reasonable members of this chamber, can agree,” Fitzpatrick said in a press conference Wednesday morning.

The three camps are divided on how closely to follow the Senate version, and whether or not to include border provisions or limit to national security alone. There’s also disagreement on if they should push something forward before the Appropriations process is done, whether the bill should go through any committee, or be pushed directly to the floor via a discharge petition.

Fitzpatrick and Golden’s discharge petition differs from the Senate bill, but puts “a clock on a time-sensitive matter” and forces Speaker Mike Johnson to get a bill on the floor, Fitzpatrick said.

There may still be room for McCaul and Fitzpatrick to come together. Republican Rep. Don Bacon, a co-sponsor of Fitzpatrick’s bill, said that he’s working to “make some improvements” with both Johnson and McCaul on his and Fitzpatrick’s bill. Bacon also confirmed that he has a “commitment from leadership” that they will bring a vote on the national security floor after the Appropriations process is done.

“To be clear, we are working with the speaker, with the minority leader, I’ve spoken personally to both of them about what our intentions are here, and this is a vehicle that will provide them with a framework on where the points of intersection are where Democrats and Republicans can agree on a center-out type solution on two time-sensitive existential matters,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick and Golden have insisted that if leadership agrees to bring their bill, or a similar bill, to the floor, there will be an “open amendment process” to add humanitarian aid, a must for many Democrats. If leadership refuses to pick up the bill and it comes via a discharge petition, that open amendment process won’t happen, but the pair insist there will be a way to get humanitarian aid into the bill anyway.

The group pushing the bill, including Bacon and Democratic Rep. Ed Case, is intentionally courting the center. Those supporting the Fitzpatrick and Golden proposal insist this is the only national security legislation that currently has bipartisan support.

McCaul disagrees, as his plan to address Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan “100%” has bipartisan support. McCaul hasn’t released the text yet, but he is framing his solution as a “House version” of what the Senate passed. He’s already spoken to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about the bill, which he plans to bring forward soon after the Appropriations process is done.

Unlike Fitzpatrick and Golden, McCaul doesn’t believe a discharge petition is the way to get aid through the House.

“A discharge petition is a last resort, and that’s only done to circumvent the speaker’s power, and puts it on the floor,” McCaul said. “I don’t think my conference would support that.”

McCaul said the Fitzpatrick bill leaves out too much.

“A lot of nuances that the appropriate authorizers and appropriators know about, like some of these foreign weapons sales programs, he doesn’t have any of that stuff in there,” McCaul said. “What he says is like, ‘Hey, it’s a bare Christmas tree, you can put your ornaments on it.’”

“We don’t want to pass something that will get ping-ponged back, and we want to pass something that can pass the Senate and go to the White House,” he said.

Democratic leadership, however, sees the solution as the Senate bill, passed in February 70-29, not a new bill or different version.

“Speaker Johnson has repeatedly said he wants the House to work its will; the only way for the House to work its will is through votes,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. “All he has to do is put the national security supplemental that the Senate passed on a bipartisan basis on the House floor and take an up or down vote.”

McGovern is leading the charge on a discharge petition to bring an identical version of the already-passed Senate bill to the House, which would avoid the two chambers having to vote again on a bill.

Johnson has made clear that the Senate’s bill is a nonstarter in the House, and Donald Trump, the Republican standard-bearer, has said he opposes it.

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With several progressive Democrats indicating they wouldn’t vote for a bill that includes aid to Israel, McGovern would have no choice but to get a number of Republicans on board. When asked if he could get support across the aisle, McGovern said he didn’t know.

“The easiest thing, and the most responsible thing, for the speaker to do is to schedule it, and let the House work its will,” he said.

Katherine Swartz is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.