After months of delay, U.S. House passes foreign aid for allies

Congress Ukraine Israel
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Activists supporting Ukraine demonstrate outside the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, April 20, 2024, as the House prepared to vote on approval of $95 billion in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies.

After months of delay, the U.S. House of Representatives debated and passed four bills to provide aid to foreign allies during a rare Saturday session before heading into a weeklong recess. 

The $95 billion dollar package includes aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Almost all of the Colorado Congressional House delegation voted for the bills.

GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn, who represents the Colorado Springs area, urged all his colleagues, including those with an isolationist bent, to support the bills on the House floor ahead of the vote. 

“Our standing in the world is at stake with our vote today. We can choose dishonor or we can choose to help friends who are oppressed by strong and malignant neighbors,” he said. “Taiwan, Israel and, yes, Ukraine, desperately need our help. Vote for all four bills. Choose honor over dishonor.”

The foreign aid bills include:

  • $60 billion for military aid to Ukraine, part of which would be given in the form of a loan that the president could forgive starting in 2026. 
  • $26 billion for Israel, including humanitarian aid for people in conflict zones like Gaza and funding to replenish the country’s Iron Dome air defense system. 
  • $8 billion for countries in the Indo-Pacific, as the U.S. seeks to counter China in the region. 

The three bills largely mirror the national security supplement passed by the Senate in February, with the biggest change being the loan component for Ukraine.

The fourth bill was  made up of a grab bag of 15 national security proposals, including requiring the Chinese parent company of the popular social media app TikTok to divest or face a nationwide ban, new sanctions against Iran and the REPO Act, which would transfer seized Russian assets to Ukraine.

Lamborn along with all the Colorado Democrats — Reps. Yadira Caraveo, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse and Brittany Pettersen — voted for all four bills. 

Caraveo said the bills were long overdue. 

“This is a package that I think could have been brought to the floor months ago and provided important aid to Israel, to the Palestinian people and to Ukraine,” she said after the vote. “And so I'm very glad that we finally did our job and got it through.”

Of the Colorado delegation, only GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert voted against them. 

There was broad bipartisan support for the package, with over 350 members voting for each bill, save Ukraine aid, which got 311 yes votes. That disparity reflects a divide in Congress, particularly among Republicans when it comes to Ukraine policy, that could threaten Speaker Mike Johnson’s gavel.

The far right and isolationist wings of the Republican House majority opposed the package, especially as it didn’t include the changes to border policy they have been seeking. 

A fifth bill focused on border security failed to reach the two-thirds vote threshold after Republicans on the House Rules Committee prevented a rule, which would have let it move forward with just a simple majority vote in the chamber, from being passed.

More worryingly for Johnson, more than half his caucus voted against the Ukraine aid bill.

Tempers flared as that vote took place. Ukrainian flags were distributed on the floor, leading Boebert to go to the well to loudly admonish a group of Democrats for holding and waving them.

She said afterwards it was “absolutely disgusting.”

Boebert challenged those lawmakers who believe aiding Ukraine against Russia is a national security priority. “America is our priority. They want to go represent Ukraine, go the hell on and represent Ukraine,” she added.

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene had threatened to bring forward a motion to vacate against Speaker Johnson, should the Ukraine aid pass. But she left the chamber Saturday without triggering it. One of her co-sponsors, Rep. Thomas Massie, told reporters before the vote that the plan is to pressure him to resign on his own, by getting more members to cosponsor the motion.

So far, Boebert has not supported the idea of getting rid of Johnson, despite saying she’s disappointed by his leadership. Instead, she saved her ire for the Ukraine bill.

Lauren Boebert Matt Gaetz
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., center, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., walk with a reporter, left, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2024.

Boebert said she hated the package of bills and had been trying to stop it for weeks, spending hours in the Speaker’s office to find a better solution.

“Instead, our greatest ally (Israel) was used as leverage to get $60 billion to Ukraine,” she said. “Absolutely disgusting.”

A handful of amendments from Greene and others attempted to cut or limit the Ukraine aid, but all were rejected by the majority of the chamber. Boebert was the only member of the Colorado delegation to vote for these amendments.

Lashing out at her colleagues, Greene said they should be working on other issues, like the border or inflation, not funding a war in Ukraine that continues on “murdering Ukrainians.”

“Shame on the American government. If we support our military, support our military,” she said. “We should be funding to build up our weapons and ammunition, not to send it over to foreign countries to kill foreign peoples.”

Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, took issue with that argument.  

“If you want peace, give the Ukrainians the strength to stop Putin,” Smith said. “It makes no sense to say that giving the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves is what’s killing them, when it’s very clearly the Russians that are killing them.”

He added the bill is about helping Ukraine defend itself.

President Joe Biden thanked House leaders and the “bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House who voted to put our national security first” and urged the Senate to take up the bill quickly.

While the House voted on each bill separately, the measures are expected to be packaged together into one as they head to the Senate, which was also in session Saturday, ready to start moving on the aid.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Saturday afternoon that the chamber reached  a deal that would allow the foreign aid package to face its first procedural vote Tuesday afternoon. 

The Senate was supposed to be on a recess coinciding with the Passover holiday but will cut its break short to finish passage of the national security supplemental.