Maryland’s House Democrats press Republicans to pass Ukraine aid

Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Maryland’s House Democrats are criticizing Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, for refusing to hear the Senate-approved foreign aid package that includes Ukraine and Israel.

“Give the victims of Putin’s war crimes a vote, Mr. Speaker,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said on the House floor Thursday. “Give Ukraine hope, Mr. Speaker. Tell Putin: ‘Nyet.’ Every minute we don’t signals retreat instead of resolve.”

The Senate passed the $95 billion national security supplemental spending bill Tuesday. The measure would allot funding, including military support and humanitarian aid, for Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and Taiwan.

Johnson has firmly rejected calls to put the bill to a vote in the House due to the lack of border security legislation. But the speaker also has rejected a bipartisan compromise on border security crafted in the Senate.

In a Monday statement, Johnson said House Republicans were “crystal clear” that national security supplemental legislation “must recognize that national security begins at our own border.”

The foreign aid bill was attached to border security legislation until Senate Republicans voted against the bill Wednesday because they said the border policies didn’t go far enough. Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Shumer, D-New York, then introduced the new bill without border legislation.

The national security package passed 70-29, with support from 22 Republican senators.

Hoyer said that if Johnson were to put the bill on the House floor, they it would have at least 300 votes to pass.

“The question is not whether this legislation would receive enough votes to pass this house,” Hoyer said. “The question is whether Speaker Johnson will give us the opportunity to vote on it at all. Refusal to do so is causing Ukrainians to die.”

The congressman further said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “salivates” at the inaction of the “isolationist or authoritarian loving factions” of House Republicans.

Rep. David Trone, who is running in the Maryland Democratic primary for the Senate, called Johnson’s reluctance to bring the foreign aid bill a “dereliction of duty and a shameless abandonment of America’s allies” in an X post Tuesday.  Trone added that “it’s time for House Republicans to step up and govern.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D–Maryland, accused House Republicans of taking orders from former President Donald Trump in a Wednesday interview with MSNBC. Raskin said the Senate was the best hope for bipartisan compromises, adding that the House Republicans fall in line with those on the MAGA right.

“I think our best hope for trying to torture out some bipartisan compromises that will allow America to stand on the side of freedom and democracy and human rights around the world is on the Senate side,” Raskin said.

In an email statement to Capital News Service, Rep. John Sarbanes, D–Maryland, said the aid bill is the “right framework” for moving forward on critical priorities and encouraged Johnson to consider the measure.

“The Senate took a crucial step in supporting our allies Israel and Ukraine and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Sarbanes said. “I urge Speaker Johnson to give it the consideration it deserves.”

Some House Democrats, including Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D–New York, seem to support using a discharge petition to circumvent the unwavering speaker.

Jeffries said Tuesday he would use “every available legislative tool” to move the aid bill forward.

A discharge petition would require a majority of House members to pass. With the Republicans holding a narrow 219-213 advantage, Democrats would have to find some Republicans willing to go against their party leadership.

The Senate-approved bill would allocate $60 billion to support Ukraine’s defense against Russia, including funding to allow Ukraine to re-arm itself and to receive U.S. military intelligence and training support.

The Senate slated $14 billion security assistance to Israel. This would fund Israel missile defense capabilities and the Iron Beam missile defense system – a laser system that can detect and strike incoming missiles.

Nine billion dollars would go towards humanitarian assistance to populations in war zones and potential regions of conflict, including Ukraine, Gaza and the West Bank, East Africa and South Asia.

Maryland’s two senators, who voted for the package, have expressed concerns about both the treacherous political road the bill went down and policies left in and out of the final measure.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D–Maryland, said earlier this week it was critical to pass humanitarian aid and to deploy resources to protect democracy around the world, including to Ukraine, which the senator said is running “dangerously low on ammunition and other vital supplies.”

“We know all too well that this is not only a fight to save Ukraine – our adversaries and allies alike are watching closely, and the outcome will have implications on American security and security across the globe,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

Van Hollen said that while he supports funding for defensive weapons and Israel’s right to defend itself, the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza is too great to ignore.

“While a war may be just, it must be fought justly. I cannot support a blank check for the Netanyahu government’s current campaign in Gaza,” Van Hollen said.    Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said earlier this week that while the passage of the foreign aid bill was a “cause for celebration,” partisanship is blocking final passage.

The senator also said the lack of a border policy in the bill “represents a failure of governance and a disservice to our national security.”