Colorado House members ready to vote on foreign aid for allies – including Israel and Ukraine

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, May 22, 2023

The U.S. House of Representatives is facing a rare weekend session in an effort to pass foreign aid for allies, including Israel and Ukraine, before going on recess.

It’s an issue that has united most of the Colorado Congressional delegation.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has proposed four bills totaling about $95 billion in aid. That includes $26 billion to support Israel along with about $9 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza, $60 billion for Ukraine, with just over a third of that funding going to replenish U.S. weapons and stocks, and $8 billion for countries in the Indo-Pacific, as the U.S. looks to counter China.

This largely resembles the national security supplemental the Senate passed in mid-February.

A fourth bill is a grab bag of foreign policy proposals, including forcing the Chinese company ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a US ban and the REPO Act, which would use confiscated Russian assets to fund aid to Ukraine.

If all of the bills pass the House, they would be packaged together and sent to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they’d consider it. President Joe Biden also expressed his support for the package and said he’d sign it if it gets to his desk.

Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse said he likes what he sees so far. He and others had been pushing Johnson to bring the Senate bill to the floor for months.

“The bills that they have brought — essentially the individual components — largely resemble the Senate bill, which I was supportive of, so I’m supportive of the substance of the bill,” he told CPR News.

J. Scott Applewhite, File/AP Photo
This Wednesday, July 24, 2019 file photo shows Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

He does have some concerns about the fourth bill, which includes 15 different measures, because some elements have not gone through “regular order." He and others are still looking at the details.

Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has been pushing for aid to Israel and Ukraine, said he’s still looking at the details, but he’s glad the Speaker is trying to bring something to the floor.

“It shows leadership on [Johnson’s] part,” he told CPR News.

Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, who has traveled to Ukraine several times, said his focus is on getting the Ukraine portion done. Overall, there are things he likes, and things he doesn’t. And he has some concerns about the process.

“I'm worried about how complicated the Speaker is making this and how drawn out the process is because right now it's very hard to do complicated things in Congress and have them turn out well, but we're going to work really hard this week to try to get it over the finish line,” he told CPR News.

The package does not face an easy path to a floor vote. The chamber first has to pass a rule governing debate on the House floor, a procedural hurdle that usually comes down to a party-line vote. In this case, though, the rule vote will likely require at least some Democratic support given the Republicans’ slim majority and that caucus’s divisions over aid to Ukraine in particular.

Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette hinted that could happen. “What I think is that the only real legislation we’ve been able to pass this Congress, including keeping the government open and funding it, has been because the Democrats have bailed the dysfunctional Republican majority out, time after time. We may have to do it again.”

Still, she added, if Republicans are going to have the majority, they should be able to muster the votes to pass the rule.

One prominent Colorado Republican is opposed to the package. GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert described the package as “really unfortunate.” 

“I didn't like the TikTok Bill to begin with and now it's even worse. All of this is nonsense,” Boebert told reporters. “We are putting in aid for Gaza with Israel. I mean, I think all of this is just a slap in the face. We need to stand with our strongest ally, Israel, and when we are connecting it to everything else, it's really unfortunate.”

She noted it involves almost $100 billion in spending and doesn’t include border security. (Opposition from conservative Republicans helped kill a bipartisan border security bill negotiated in the Senate in early February.) 

Johnson did propose a fifth bill, one dealing with border security, but three hardline Republicans on the Rules Committee — Reps. Chip Roy, Thomas Massie, and Ralph Norman — signaled their opposition to the bill there, likely killing it, and the meeting adjourned Wednesday night without a vote.

Boebert, who had voted against rules on the floor before, said she doesn’t have confidence in Speaker Johnson, but she added she does not support a motion to vacate.

Two Republicans have sponsored a resolution to remove Johnson as Speaker, but it looks like they won’t get any help from Colorado’s two remaining GOP members.

Trump Impeachment Lamborn
House Television via AP
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., speaks at the House of Representatives in Washington, on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.

Lamborn said of the motion, “It’s stupid of them to do that,” noting that only a handful of Republicans would vote for it, especially after it took three weeks to select someone to replace former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Meanwhile, Freshman Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen added she thinks some members on her side of the aisle would vote against any motion to vacate if Johnson “governs and does the right thing.” 

“I think a lot of people are going to look at their options to make sure we don’t throw ourselves into the chaos we’ve been seeing,” she told CPR News.

For her part, Pettersen is hopeful the House will be able to come together in a bipartisan way to get aid to Ukraine and Israel, including humanitarian aid.