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House GOP leaders consider changing some Ukraine war funding to loans: congressional source

A final decision on the way forward for providing additional foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan has not yet been decided, the source says and a Republican congressman is planning to soon circulate a discharge petition

Published: February 29, 2024 11:03pm

Updated: February 29, 2024 11:48pm

House Republicans are considering lending the Ukrainian government funding for the country's war against Russia rather than providing $61 billion under the Senate-passed foreign aid bill, Just the News has learned.

According to a Council on Foreign Relations analysis, the U.S. government has spent $75 billion on the war in Ukraine.

Following a White House meeting on Tuesday, President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have stepped up pressure on House Speaker Mike Johnson to put the Senate bill –  which totals $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and humanitarian efforts in Gaza –  on the floor for a vote. The foreign aid package does not include provisions to cover the cost of the legislation.

Johnson and House Republican leaders are considering multiple options for the next step, including providing some Ukraine war funding in cash and lending the rest, according a GOP congressional source close to the process.

A final decision on the way forward on foreign aid has not yet been decided, the source said.

Many conservative House Republicans want to see more border security steps taken as a condition for providing more aid to other countries. The House Freedom Caucus has been advocating for Johnson to find a way to incorporate provisions of the House-passed Secure the Border Act into the next major spending bill. However, that approach would hit roadblocks in the Democratic-led Senate since Schumer has declined to put that legislation up for a vote.

Senate negotiators had reached a U.S. border deal and originally included it in the foreign aid bill but it was removed after Senate Republicans had blocked that version from advancing in the chamber. Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate argued that the border deal would not do enough to secure the border and reduce illegal crossings.

House GOP leaders were not directly involved in negotiating the border deal.

Johnson had said the Senate bill with the border deal incorporated would be dead on arrival in the House due to opposition from Republican lawmakers in the GOP-led chamber.

The Senate wound up passing the foreign aid package without the border language in a bipartisan vote 70-29. There were 26 Republican senators who voted against the legislation. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, recently said that a discharge petition to force a vote on the $95 billion foreign aid bill would be on the way if Johnson doesn't decide to put it on the floor for a House vote.

“I don’t see anyway of getting out of Israel, Indo Pacific and eventually Ukraine coming to the floor," McCaul said. "He’s either going to have to do it — put it on the floor himself — or it’s going to be by virtue of a discharge petition, which is a complete evisceration of his power, because it basically says we’re going to do this without the speaker being in charge."

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, is preparing a discharge petition to force a House vote on Ukraine war funding.

To reach 218 signatures, Fitzpatrick needs five Republicans to support the petition, assuming all Democrats in the chamber support it. 

"It's existential, it's time sensitive. Whether that's our product or somebody else's, we've just got to get the money out the door to them," he said on Thursday, according to Axios.

Democrats such as Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey have indicated that they would sign a discharge petition to force a vote.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has not put the Senate-passed foreign aid bill up for a vote yet. The legislation includes about $61 billion for Ukraine and the rest of the funds would apply to Israel, Taiwan, and humanitarian efforts in Gaza.

Fitzpatrick and Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, have introduced a separate bipartisan funding bill totaling $66 billion that would provide foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The bill also includes some U.S. border security provisions.

It is unclear at this time which piece of legislation Fitzpatrick would ultimately attach to the discharge petition but he plans to begin circulating it in early March. 

“We have to get something done,” he told reporters on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, interest on the U.S. national debt is on track to exceed the entire Department of Defense budget.

According to a Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget analysis, interest will be larger than Pentagon spending and Medicare payments in fiscal year 2024.

"Spending on interest is projected to total $870 billion, while spending on national defense will total $822 billion. This has never been the case before, going back to at least 1940," read a new analysis from the CRFB. "In addition to breaching defense spending, interest costs are expected to exceed Medicare spending this year, making interest on the national debt the second largest line item in the FY2024 federal budget, behind only Social Security."

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