The $95 billion national security bill cleared the US Senate early this morning by a vote of 70 to 29. Mike Johnson, the House speaker, has already rejected it. Nonetheless, here’s what’s inside:
$5 billion (or near to it) for Indo-Pacific allies, most notably Taiwan, which is commonly regarded as under threat from China.
According to Punchbowl News, a very good source for reporting on maneuvers in the hallways of Congress, “many Republicans support removing nearly $8 billion in Ukrainian economic support from the bill while retaining lethal aid,” a move that was attempted but repelled in the Senate.
Other House Republicans are vehemently opposed to sustaining backing for Ukraine. Most House Republicans are outraged (in a performance-art sort of way) that the national security package passed without accompanying border security and immigration provisions. Senate Republicans, of course, scuttled an accord after Donald Trump (basically) urged them to.
Patty Murray, the Washington state Democrat who chairs the Senate appropriations committee, summarized what Republicans could have achieved when the national security package was presented earlier this month as a $118.3 billion plan that included border security measures.
Andrew Bates, the White House deputy press secretary, is being typically critical of Mike Johnson’s opposition to the national security package voted by the Senate this morning, citing “brutal juxtapositions” for the House speaker in “every article” released on the situation in Congress.
Bates draws attention to the fact that “Johnson criticized the lack of border security provisions in the bill [after] Senate Republicans largely rejected a package that included border security provisions … due in no small part to Johnson”.
Meanwhile, here’s Bill Kristol, the conservative Never Trumper behind the Bulwark website.
Good news from the United States Senate (not something I’m used to writing these days!): The national security measure for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan passes by a vote of 70 to 29. Democrats 48–3, Republicans 22–26. So, there are only one and a half accountable parties in the Senate.
FWIW, I’m optimistic about the House.
To be fair, not many people are. Some observers believe Democrats in the House could use a discharge petition to get the aid package through, despite Speaker Johnson’s and his party’s far right opposition.
Indivisible, a progressive activist organization, defines a discharge petition as follows:
After a measure has been submitted and referred to a standing committee for 30 days, a member of the House may make a move to discharge the bill or release it from committee consideration. The petition must be signed by a majority of the House (218 voting members, not delegates). Once a discharge petition reaches 218 members after multiple legislative days, the House examines the move to discharge the law and votes after 20 minutes of debate. If the vote is successful (by all those who signed the petition in the first place), the House will take up the bill.
The House is now controlled by Republicans, 219-212, with four vacancies.
Here’s what Indivisible says about why discharge petitions normally fail – but also gives a hint, bolded, as to why some people believe such a move would work this time, considering how closely the house is divided and how not all Republicans are opposed to assisting Ukraine.
Discharge petitions are rarely successfully used to force a vote on a contentious legislation. This is because discharge petitions are commonly utilized by the minority party on subjects with bipartisan support. The most likely application of a discharge petition in this Congress is for Democrats to try to force a vote on something that all Democrats and a few Republicans wanted to bring to the floor. However, this can only happen if there is tremendous pressure on that small group of Republicans to break ranks with their party’s leadership.
The fate of the Senate foreign aid package is questionable in the House (14:07)
Good morning and welcome to another day in American politics. This, like most recent days in Washington and on the campaign trail, promises to be a good time. (Depending on your definition of “fun”, of course.) To wit,
The Senate cleared a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan early this morning, following an all-night debate by various right-wing, pro-Trump senators. The issue is that it now needs to pass the House, where the pro-Trump Republican right is unlikely to let it go untouched. The House speaker, Mike “Moses” Johnson (that’s not really his middle name or even his nickname, but see here), issued the following statement: “In the absence of any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these critical issues. America deserves better than the Senate’s current status quo. Of that status quo, you’ll recall that pro-Trump Republicans in the Senate this week derailed their own border and immigration agreement, reached after months of negotiations with Democrats, at the request of their master.
Next: today could be the day that the House impeaches Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, making him the first cabinet official impeached since William Belknap, Ulysses S Grant’s pretty corrupt minister of war in 1876. Of course, success in that vote will necessitate basic procedural competence from Johnson and the rest of the Republican House leadership, who lost on their first try last week. The weather, a major hurricane on the US east coast, and other unknowns may still have an impact on Mayorkas’ second impeachment attempt, which is scheduled for tonight. If Republicans succeed, an impeachment based only on political grounds will be dead in the Senate, where Democrats are unlikely to allow a trial in a presidential election year.
Outside of Washington, today is a special election on Long Island in New York, where Republican Mazi Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi (a former occupant of the seat) are competing to replace George Santos, the indicted fabulist who became only the sixth member of the US House to be expelled. Predictions are for a very low turnout, possibly even lower than low, given the storm’s projected snowfall in New York, and a razor-thin margin. According to the newsletters I’m reading, Suozzi has a better chance. In any case, it’s a struggle with far-reaching consequences for Republican control of the House, which is already a chaotic, razor-thin affair, as well as national rune-reading in an election year.
And, after all that, there is the ongoing spectacle of speculation about the impact of special counsel Robert Hur’s decision to play neurologist and, while declining to indict Joe Biden for his retention of classified information, discuss in great detail the 81-year-old president’s alleged problems with long- and short-term memory, including on matters of great personal concern. Expect the White House and Democrats to continue to attack Hur, while Republicans and Donald Trump (77 and evidently not as sharp as a tack) will continue to attack Biden. According to Axios, Republicans intend to call Hur to testify in Congress about his findings (a standard procedure for special counsels), and transcripts of presidential interviews are also expected to be disclosed.