U.S. Senate passes foreign aid package, but bill still faces test in House

Texas senators Cruz and Cornyn split in their votes on the legislation, which would provide funding to Ukraine and Israel.

By Rhonda FanningFebruary 13, 2024 10:45 am,

The U.S. Senate has passed an aid package to help Ukraine and Israel in their conflicts against Russia and Hamas, respectively – a $95 billion aid package that split the vote between Texas’s two U.S. senators.

While Republican Ted Cruz refused to approve the package, fellow Republican John Cornyn gave it the green light, adding to the final vote, 70 to 29 in favor.

But what comes next as all eyes turn to the U.S. House of Representatives? Juan Carlos Huerta, a political science professor at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, joined Texas Standard to discuss. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity: 

Texas Standard: Tell us a little bit more about what’s included in this $95 billion bill. It’s not just Israel and Ukraine getting this money. I understand Taiwan might get some as well.

Juan Carlos Huerta: Well, I think the big focus is going to be on the Ukraine and Israeli package, right? There’s other aid in these bills. You know, that’s not the part that’s so consequential for the U.S. politics right now and that’s not what’s going to be drawing the attention.

The big attention is going to be on “do we continue to fund Ukraine so they can continue the in their battle with Russia?” And, you know, increasingly we’re seeing with the the wars going on with Israel in Gaza, that’s what’s going to get the attention. So, I mean, I don’t think anything to quibble about other foreign aid. That’s the big one.

Yeah, it comes down to those two. Now, I know that the Senate recently passed another foreign aid bill, but that included elements that address border security and the House effectively quashed that one. Any signs this will be different?

Well, I think what you’re getting into right now is this dilemma, you see, between governing and campaigning. And, you know, some folks are really focused on trying to govern. You know, we’ve got legislation we need to pass. We have pressing public policy issues. We need to get serious about passing these.

Others are always in campaign mode and they’re thinking about “how can I win the news cycle? How can I get more clicks? How can I increase my fundraising?” And so it’s going to be interesting to see if people are really serious. You said you want to get these things done. Well, let’s legislate and get these things done.

When it comes to that, are we gonna hold people accountable for claiming they want solutions, or are we going to focus on their campaigning part of it and not really address… “Wait a minute. You said you care about this legislation, but now when it’s time to pass it, you’re finding reasons to not pass it.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson has already said he wants to block a vote on this, like he did with that earlier version I was just mentioning. But I suppose we have to address the elephant in the House. Although he’s not technically there, former President Donald Trump has certainly weighed in in the past on aid to Ukraine and Israel. How much of an effect is his opposition having here?

Well, I think what you’ve got, considering when you look at the House of Representatives, is the way you’ve got so many members in it from safe seats. You’ve got, you know, gerrymandering that also creates safe seats. And so you’ve got folks who are willing to be very responsive to what former President Trump says. He has a lot of influence with them. And so, you know, they may be considering what can they do to help him not just win, but, you know, win the headlines with the news narratives of the day instead of governing.

I was thinking about I can’t remember any time a former president has wielded this much influence over their party. But, you know, he certainly does seem to be doing that. And many of them in the House seem to be following his lead.

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Well, now there are reports that some GOP supporters of this bill might try skirting House leadership to force a floor vote in that chamber, something called a “discharge petition.” Do you know how that works?

Well, it’s my understanding they need signatures from 218 House members. So, you know, Democrats can probably deliver a supermajority of their members that would sign on to the discharge petition. I think the question is, are there enough Republican House members who are willing to do this?

Now, perhaps there are some who are in tight reelection battles and maybe, you know, there aren’t that many of them that are in seats that lean Democratic, but those are the ones they might want to go after. Because if that bill fails, I mean, we were here talking about the political implications, but you got to think about the reality of these implications. We’ve seen an erosion of democracy across the world. And if Russia were to prevail in Ukraine. You know, that can be a real blow to global democracy.

So we got think about sometimes we get caught up in the politics going on here, and we forget the reality of the implications of the policies.

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