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The Senate approved $95 billion in assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan after months of delay, but the legislation still faces formidable obstacles in the House.
The uncertainty over more American aid persists as Ukraine struggles with dwindling supplies, infighting among the country’s leaders and Russian forces on the offensive.
By a vote of 70 to 29 this morning following an all-night session, the Senate approved the emergency national security funding package, which includes $60 billion in war aid for Ukraine alongside funding for Israel, Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Gaza.
Republican leaders in the US House have demanded that President Joe Biden first take action to reduce undocumented migration before any Ukraine aid can pass. Yet a painstakingly negotiated border enforcement deal was dropped from the assistance package following opposition from Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, who derided the compromise as a “gift” to Democrats.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is under threat from ultraconservative members not to allow Ukraine aid to pass without extracting immigration concessions that are anathema to Democrats, such as forcing all asylum seekers to remain in Mexico and building a border wall. Johnson issued a statement late Monday rejecting the Senate bill, saying it failed to address the border crisis.
“America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo,” he said.
Opposition from Johnson and Trump allies means they won’t be bringing the Senate bill up for a standalone vote in the House. There is a way around the speaker, however, under the House rules. House Democrats can force a bill to the floor via a rarely used parliamentary procedure if enough Republicans who support Ukraine join them.
That process takes time and Republicans already say they won’t join in such a maneuver. Traditionally, majority party members are reluctant to go against the speaker’s wishes, but urgency to act on Ukraine has increased as its supplies have dwindled. Erik Wasson, Steven T. Dennis and Roxana Tiron have more on the House outlook.
DEPORTATIONS will slow down and cities hosting migrants will face added strain without an infusion of cash from Congress, the Biden administration is warning after the collapse of a $20 billion border deal.
The Homeland Security Department outlined the impacts of a shortfall yesterday, as lawmakers work out how to fund the agency through the rest of fiscal 2024 ahead of a March 8 deadline.
“The Administration has repeatedly requested additional resources for DHS’s vital missions on the southwest border and Congress has chronically underfunded them,” spokesperson Erin Heeter said in a statement.
The agency’s frustrated plea for more funding is part of broader backlash to Republicans’ decision to walk away from a hard-fought package that included significant new border enforcement policies and resources. Biden and his allies have accused Republicans of clinging to border dysfunction as a campaign issue rather than working to fix problems.
Lawmakers’ rejection of a bipartisan border bill last week will undermine “DHS’s current removal operations, put further strain on our already overtaxed workforce, and make it harder to catch fentanyl at ports of entry,” Heeter said.
Without that deal’s supplemental funding, the department’s budget allocation will fall far short of what’s needed, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a top negotiator of the border deal and the lead DHS appropriator in the Senate, said in a recent interview with Bloomberg Government.
“They will likely have to do a massive reprogramming almost as soon as the budget is passed,” he said last week. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.
- The president has no public events.
- Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby will hold a briefing around 10 a.m.
- The House meets at 2 p.m. to vote again on impeaching DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
- For the full detailed agenda, read BGOV’s Congress Tracker.
Also Happening on the Hill
LEGISLATION to double the state-and-local tax deduction cap to $20,000 for joint filers who make under $500,000 a year is expected to get a procedural vote in the House tomorrow. Read more.
HOUSE OVERSIGHT wants the transcript of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interview with Biden. Lawmakers are giving the Justice Department until Feb. 19 to turn that over, along with other documents included in the report that related to their impeachment inquiry. Read the letter.
THE BIPARTISAN HEADS of a House panel on China expressed concern yesterday about Biden’s campaign outreach on the popular video streaming app TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company. Read more.
LAWMAKERS asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg for records related to Instagram’s use of warning screens for child sexual abuse content, according to a letter from Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
HOUSE REPUBLICANS are demanding interviews with five FTC officials, doubling down on probes into Chair Lina Khan. Read more.
People, Power, and Politics
THE MISHANDLING OF CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS during presidential transitions will be tackled by a new task force Biden is forming, following a special counsel report that found he had willfully kept such material after he was vice president. Read more.
TRUMP asked the Supreme Court to keep on hold his criminal trial for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election while he appeals a decision that rejected his bid for immunity from prosecution.
- Yesterday’s request brings a second major case involving Trump before the nation’s highest court as he campaigns to return to the White House.
- The justices are already considering if states can bar him from this year’s presidential ballot because of his role in the Jan. 6 attack. Read more.
TRUMP endorsed his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to help lead the Republican National Committee, a move that would tighten his hold on the party even as the 2024 nominating contest continues. Read more.
A GEORGIA JUDGE ordered a hearing this week to weigh whether he should disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis from the racketeering case against Trump because she had a romantic relationship with the lead prosecutor. Read more.
REP. MATT ROSENDALE, who launched an uphill bid for a Senate seat on Friday, said he will refuse donations from corporate political action committees and registered lobbyists. The Montana Republican instead will seek small-dollar donations. Read more.
Defense & Foreign Affairs
BIDEN said he’s pushing for a six-week pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas to allow for the release of hostages, saying those conditions could lay the groundwork for a broader peace as tensions simmer in the region.
- Such pause would bring a “sustained period of calm into Gaza for at least six weeks, which we could then take the time to build something more enduring,” he said.
- His comments were his most detailed yet about the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas, which the US is helping to facilitate. Read more.
THE CHIEF PROSECUTOR of the International Criminal Court warned Israel to comply with international law in Gaza and said his office is investigating the war “as a matter of the utmost urgency.” Read more.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKIY is planning a tour of European capitals around this week’s Munich Security Conference, people familiar said, as the Ukrainian leader eyes military support amid the funding fight in Washington. Read more.
LLOYD AUSTIN was put under general anesthesia for a procedure to address a bladder issue, the defense secretary’s doctors said, as worries continued to swirl around his health after his second hospitalization in a month. Read more.
What Else We’re Watching
A HIGH COURT RULING that guts the Chevron Deference, further weakening or even overturns the power of federal agencies to interpret ambiguous laws, would force lower courts to take on much of that burden. Read more.
THE WHITE HOUSE secured a key win in its fight to uphold Medicare’s drug negotiation program by persuading a federal judge to toss a lawsuit from the top group representing the brand-name prescription drug industry. Read more.