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House Passes Foreign Aid and a TikTok Ban – But No Border Security

Congress can work together, just not necessarily on what the public wants.

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Articles, Good Reads, Opinion, Politics

The House passed a heap of largely bipartisan but also quite controversial legislation over the weekend. Three spending bills – which will be lumped together as one package for the Senate – cleared the lower chamber, approving billions of dollars in military spending for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Lawmakers also approved a measure granting the president more power to sanction Russia and Iran, as well as a potential ban on TikTok. But what representatives failed to pass – just as the dozens of Republicans labeled “hard-liners” for opposing the spending bills feared they would – was any sort of increase in security or funding for the US border.

So Much for Ending the Border Catastrophe

The first of many roll call votes on a very busy Saturday was for the End the Border Catastrophe Act. This is the “aggressive” border security bill House Speaker Mike Johnson promised Freedom Caucus Republicans, who demanded that any additional spending for foreign wars must include at least some attempt to address the crisis at the US-Mexico line.

The rules committee that advanced the spending package to the full floor late Thursday night in a 9-3 vote failed to do the same for the border bill, and so Johnson promised to give border security its time on the floor in suspension of the rules – but that means it needed a two-thirds vote in the House to pass. It didn’t. With just five Democrats joining the majority of Republicans, the final vote was 215-199, with 17 not voting. Interestingly, all five Democrats who crossed the aisle and all nine who didn’t vote hail from border states.

Peace Through Strength – and a Little Censorship

The next bill on the docket was the 21st Century Peace Through Strength Act, which passed by an impressively bipartisan 360-58 with 13 not voting. This massive tome (a PDF of the legislation takes up 184 pages) includes 14 separate acts and a bunch of sanctions on Russia, China, and Iran. It targets money laundering, terrorism, spying, and the importation of fentanyl. It allows Russian oligarchs’ assets to be confiscated and turned over to Ukraine and gives ByteDance, Ltd. nine months to sell its stake in TikTok or see the platform banned in the US.

New banner Liberty Nation Analysis 1It’s a complicated omnibus that takes foreign policy and national security concerns in many different directions – and covering the package in its entirety could spawn dozens of separate articles. A more detailed look at the final vote shows 186 Republican yeas to 25 nays and 174 Democrat yeas to 33 nays. Seven Republicans and six Democrats didn’t vote.

Big Spending for the Allies

Finally, the House moved on to the main event: funding for foreign wars. It was these proposals that saw the most controversy, inspired the most ire in Freedom Caucus Republicans, and, of course, drew the most media coverage.

First up was the Indo-Pacific Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024. The bill has a three-pronged purpose: to address China’s growth into a nuclear peer, correct inadequacies in the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), and to increase security assistance to Taiwan. Of the $8 billion appropriated, $2 billion will go to Taiwan and other regional partners “to counter Chinese aggression,” and another $1.9 billion will go toward replenishing Taiwan’s defense equipment “from stocks of the Department of Defense.”

The Taiwan measure passed 385-34. The partisan breakdown was 178 Republicans voting in favor to 34 against and 207 Democrats supporting and none opposing. Six Republicans and five Democrats didn’t vote; Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) voted “present.”

The largest of the spending bills was up next, offering $60.5 billion in overall aid to Ukraine – about $37 billion is direct aid for weapons, and $10 billion is general economic assistance in the form of a loan. The Ukraine Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024 passed 311-112, with 101 Republicans and 210 Democrats voting yes to 112 Republicans voting no. A single Republican – Pennsylvania’s Daniel Meuser – voted “present.”

The final bill of the day – the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024 – passed 366-58, with the same seven non-voting representatives who abstained from the Ukraine vote. Republicans and Democrats supported this measure 193-21 and 173-37, respectively. The act secures $26 billion for Israel, including $9.1 billion for humanitarian needs.

History Will Judge …

“We did our work here,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters after the busy legislative day, “and I think history will judge it well.” It’s hard to say just how future Americans will feel looking back on these efforts, but the world is certainly judging today. Taiwan, Ukraine, and Israel have all expressed gratitude – and urge the Senate to quickly take up the legislation so that it can take effect as quickly as possible. Mike Johnson earned praise from some fellow Republicans but it is the loyal opposition who was really happy with him. “I disagree with Speaker Johnson on many issues, and I’ve been very critical of him,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) said in an interview. “But he did the right thing here and he deserves to keep his job ‘til the end of his term.”

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(Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

While the speaker seems to have gained some allies on both sides of the aisle this weekend, he certainly hasn’t made any friends among those so-called hard-liners who either didn’t want to send billions of tax dollars overseas or who at least wanted to get something in the way of border security to ease the sting.

The Senate is expected to consider the Peace Through Strength Act and the three-bill spending package when it next meets on Tuesday, April 23. Though there are some GOP senators who oppose the foreign aid measures, the packages have the support of both parties’ leadership and the president, meaning the greatest roadblocks are likely in the rearview mirror.

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