Ukraine Aid Bill Clears Critical Hurdle in the House as Democrats Supply the Votes

Ukraine Aid Bill Clears Critical Hurdle in the House as Democrats Supply the Votes

The House took a critical step on Friday toward approving a long-stalled package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and other American allies, as Democrats supplied the crucial votes to push the legislation past Republican opposition so that it could be considered on the floor.

The 316-to-94 vote cleared the way for the House to bring up the aid package, teeing up separate votes on Saturday on each of its parts. But passage of those measures, each attracting bipartisan support from different coalitions, was not in doubt, making Friday’s action the key indicator that the legislation is all but certain to prevail.

Should that happen in votes set for Saturday afternoon, the Senate was expected to quickly pass the measure, and President Biden has said he would sign it into law.

On Friday, the rule for considering the bill — historically a straight party-line vote — passed with more Democratic than Republican support, but it also won a majority of G.O.P. votes, making it clear that despite a pocket of deep resistance from the far right, there is broad bipartisan backing for the $95.3 billion package.

The vote was an enormous victory in the long effort to fund Ukraine as it battles Russian aggression, a major priority of President Biden. It was a triumph against the forces of isolationism within the G.O.P. and a major moment of consensus in a Congress that for the past year has been mostly defined by its dysfunction.

But it came only after Speaker Mike Johnson put his job on the line by turning to Democrats in a significant breach of custom in the House, further imperiling his position even as he paved the way for the legislation to be voted on and approved.

On the House floor, Democrats held back their votes until it was clear there was not enough Republican support for the measure to pass without their backing, and then their “yes” votes began pouring in. Ultimately, 165 Democrats voted for the measure, more than the 151 Republicans who supported it.

“Democrats, once again, will be the adults in the room, and I’m so glad Republicans finally realize the gravity of the situation and the urgency with which we must act,” said Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Rules Committee. “But you don’t get an award around here for doing your damn job.”

Mr. McGovern blamed a “MAGA minority that doesn’t want to compromise” for the long delay on approving aid to Ukraine. But he said that Democrats were providing the votes because “so much more is at stake here than petty partisanship.”

It was the second time during this Congress that Republicans have had to rely on Democratic votes in the House to even bring to the floor legislation to address a critical issue. They did so last year to allow for a vote to suspend the debt ceiling bill and avoid a catastrophic federal default. On that vote, 29 Republicans voted to oppose the rule. On Friday, 55 Republicans voted against their own speaker’s agenda.

After the vote, Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona became the third Republican to say he would support a bid to oust Mr. Johnson from his post. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, has already filed a resolution calling for Mr. Johnson’s removal but has not yet sought a vote on it.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said Mr. Johnson had not directly asked him for Democratic votes to pass the rule on Friday, but it was obvious that the measure was going to require substantial backing from his ranks to pass. He added that a majority of Democrats would also support the elements of the aid package on Saturday.

Thirty-nine Democrats voted against the rule on Friday, including many progressives who oppose unfettered aid to Israel because of how it has conducted its offensive against Hamas in Gaza, where health officials say more than 33,000 people have been killed and the population is facing a hunger crisis.

The top Democrat repeatedly refused to signal whether members of his party would vote to save Mr. Johnson’s job should Republicans attempt to remove him, something Mr. Jeffries had previously said was a distinct possibility, saying that conversation would happen “at the appropriate time.”

“I think what the American people care about right now is meeting their needs in a very dangerous world of standing by our democratic allies,” Mr. Jeffries said. “That will be the ultimate test by which Speaker Johnson, myself and all of our colleagues in the House on both sides of the aisle will be judged.”

Many Republicans spoke in favor of the legislation to send aid to Ukraine and Israel. Representative Michael Burgess, Republican of Texas and the chairman of the rules panel, said he wanted the Biden administration to provide more information about how previous foreign aid funding was used and what its long-term goals were for ending the conflict in Ukraine.

He said Republicans would continue to push for accountability, but conceded that, “today we are at an inflection point.”

“Lack of aid now could cost us much more dearly later,” he said, “and I don’t want that to become a reality.”

But the far-right flank of the Republican conference, which has wielded outsized power in a tiny majority, spoke out to oppose the bill.

“I’m concerned that the speaker’s cut a deal with the Democrats to fund foreign wars rather than secure our border,” said Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, one of the most vocal opponents of the legislation who has threatened to vote to oust Mr. Johnson because of it.

In order to steer around opposition from members of his own party, Mr. Johnson broke down the package into three pieces, adding a fourth bill to sweeten the deal for conservatives.

The rule was critical to Mr. Johnson’s strategy, because it allows separate votes on aid to Israel and aid to Ukraine, which are supported by different coalitions, but then folds them together without requiring lawmakers to cast an up-or-down vote on the entire bill.

That made the rule the only all-or-nothing vote that lawmakers would face on the foreign aid package, in many ways making it more important than any of the votes on the individual pieces of the plan. The measure also includes a package of sweeteners including a bill to require the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or ban the app in the United States.

“This was all precooked,” Representative Chip Roy, a hard-right Republican from Texas, fumed as he rose to oppose the rule. “It’s why President Biden and Chuck Schumer are praising it.”

Friday’s vote came after Republicans on the House Rules Committee were also forced late Thursday night to rely on Democratic votes to move the legislation out of the committee and onto the House floor. The far-right lawmakers who tried to block the rule in the committee — Mr. Massie, Mr. Roy and Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina — opposed it because it would not allow a vote on severe border security provisions they have said should be prioritized over aiding Ukraine.

Under the rule approved on Friday, Republicans will have two chances to zero out or limit the funding for Ukraine. Those efforts are expected to fail.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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