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John Fetterman
Sen. John Fetterman had a concise response to whether he trusts the House to pass foreign aid: “Of course not. It’s the House.” J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Foreign Aid Is in the House’s Hands — And That Makes Senate Democrats Nervous

Senate Democrats don’t hate the House’s foreign aid bills. They just don’t trust Mike Johnson.

Senate Democrats aren’t stressed about the content of the House foreign aid bills — they’re worried the House can’t pass them at all.

“It’s the ‘Springer’ show over there, and it’s absolutely possible that they could fuck it up,” Sen. John Fetterman said. “But I really think that we’re at a critical juncture, and if they get it clean on our floor, we have the votes for that.”

When asked if he has any faith in the other chamber, Fetterman said, “Of course not. It’s the House.”

The three long-awaited bills (one addressing aid for Taiwan, one for Israel and one for Ukraine), plus a fourth addressing a wider array of legislative priorities like TikTok, set off a firestorm in the House GOP’s right flank before the text was even published. Since Wednesday, calls to remove Mike Johnson as speaker have grown.

Exasperation is clear, especially since the Senate passed a funding package of its own two months ago. Many senators from both parties have voiced frustration over how long it’s taken the House to take up foreign aid.

“My anxiety is the fact that we have uncertainty,” Sen. John Hickenlooper said. “Other than that, I’m willing to take them as they come. I just want to get a move on. I want to get this done. Time is of the essence.”

The content of the bills released this week hasn’t raised too many hackles. Sen. Elizabeth Warren described the package as an “accurate mirror” of the Senate’s version, and President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass it. However, there’s nothing the Senate can do but wait for the House.

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“Given the state of the House, I have to reserve judgment until I see what actually happens,” Sen. Alex Padilla said. “Things have a tendency to get sideways real quick over there.”

The urgency from the upper chamber has been clear, but in Congress, the three days remaining until the Saturday vote is enough time for things to change. House Freedom Caucus members were seen having a tense conversation with Johnson on the floor earlier Thursday. Plus, his detractors on the powerful Rules Committee could wreak havoc.

“The House can’t pass a simple rule on a simple bill. Are they really going to be able to jump through all of these unnecessary hoops?” Sen. Chris Murphy said. “It certainly feels like the speaker has made a decision that he wants to get the national security funding done, but there’s lots of ways that could go wrong between now and the weekend.”

“But hope springs eternal,” the senator said.

Casey Murray is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.