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House Passes Trio of Foreign Aid Bills
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House Passes Trio of Foreign Aid Bills

What do the bipartisan pieces of legislation actually do?

Happy Monday! And Chag Pesach Sameach to all our readers celebrating the start of Passover tonight!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Sunday that it neutralized ten terrorists and arrested eight wanted suspects during a two-day operation in the occupied West Bank that concluded on Saturday. A report from the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank—which IDF has neither confirmed nor denied—claimed the operation killed 14 people, including one child and one teenager. Also on Sunday, the Palestinian Red Crescent claimed that an ambulance driver was shot and killed while transporting Palestinians injured in a skirmish with Israeli settlers, an incident the IDF has said it’s investigating. Meanwhile, the U.S. is reportedly planning to sanction an ultra-Orthodox IDF battalion, Netzah Yehuda, for alleged human rights violations in the West Bank predating Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.
  • President Joe Biden released a statement on Sunday condemning the “alarming surge” in antisemitism amid intensifying anti-Israel protests at Columbia University over the weekend. The demonstrations, which came ahead of Passover this week, have included praise for terrorism and calls for violence against Jews and Jewish students. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Sunday that the police department has “an increased presence” near the university to “protect students and all New Yorkers on public streets,” but added he can’t send officers to the private campus unless another request is made by Columbia.
  • Satellite imagery suggests that an Israeli counterattack against Iran early Friday morning likely caused damage to an Iranian air base, including an air defense system. Although the strike occurred near the central Iranian city of Isfahan—an area where there are known to be Iranian military and nuclear sites—officials from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran’s nuclear facilities were undamaged. Citing anonymous Western sources, the New York Times reported that Israeli warplanes fired missiles at Iran during the attack, but it remains unclear if they contributed to the damage visible on satellite imaging. Israeli officials have not publicly taken responsibility for the strikes, but both U.S. and Iranian officials have attributed them to Israel. Iranian officials have continued to downplay the retaliation, claiming that Israel attacked with small-exploding drones that were neutralized by their defenses.
  • The Biden administration on Friday announced its plans to withdraw all remaining military personnel—totaling more than 1,000—from Niger, including those stationed at a $110 million American air base that functions as a hub for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel region. The ruling junta—which came to power in a coup last summer—terminated a military cooperation agreement with the U.S. last month, prompting Nigerien government officials to denounce continued American presence in the country as illegal. A senior U.S. military official told the Wall Street Journal that the withdrawal “complicates the Pentagon’s ability to achieve U.S. security objectives in the region.”
  • The House of Representatives passed legislation spearheaded by House Speaker Mike Johnson on Saturday totaling $95 billion in foreign aid for the Indo-Pacific, Israel, and Ukraine. A Senate vote on the package is expected as early as Tuesday, and President Joe Biden has signaled that he will sign it into law. Despite threatening to oust Johnson over the package, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia—one of three co-sponsors on the motion to vacate, which could force a vote to eject Johnson—said she would instead delay the motion until after the House’s Passover recess, providing more time to rally support for Johnson’s removal. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude to the House for the $61 billion in Ukraine aid—about $10 billion of which is in the form of a loan—and hailed the legislation as a “solution for protecting life.”
  • Included in the House’s foreign aid and national security package passed Saturday is a measure that could lead to the forced sale or ban of TikTok, the popular social media app with around 170 million U.S. users. The legislation—passed in a 360-58 vote in the House—would require TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to divest the app within one year or face a ban on its operations within the U.S. The House passed a similar bill last month before it stalled in the Senate. Biden expressed his support for the earlier bill, saying last month, “If they pass it, I’ll sign it.”
  • Biden on Saturday signed legislation to extend for two years Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the government to gather communication data from foreign citizens outside U.S. borders. The House passed legislation to reauthorize the measure earlier this month, and the Senate voted down several amendments trying to narrow the law’s reach before passing the reauthorization 60-34 late Friday night as the measure was set to expire.
  • Jury selection in former President Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial related to alleged hush-money payments ended Friday after the five remaining alternate jurors were seated. Their identities are supposed to remain confidential, known only to the judge overseeing the case, prosecutors, Trump, and his legal defense team. Opening statements for the case are slated to begin Monday morning after Judge Juan Merchan scolded the defense for its flurry of motions meant to delay the start of the proceedings. Shortly after the jurors were seated Friday, a 37-year-old man set himself on fire outside the courthouse and succumbed to his injuries in the hospital later that night. In a manifesto published online, he revealed his motivations stemmed from various conspiracy theories, including that global leaders are plotting an “apocalyptic fascist world coup.”
  • David Pryor, a former Democratic governor of and U.S. senator from Arkansas, died on Saturday from natural causes at the age of 89. Pryor began his public service career in 1960, when he was elected to the Arkansas state legislature, later serving in the U.S. House of Representatives before ascending to the governor’s mansion and eventually the Senate. 

Unpacking the Foreign Aid Bills

A view of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 20, 2024, ahead of a House vote on a major aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. (Photo by DREW ANGERER/AFP via Getty Images)
A view of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 20, 2024, ahead of a House vote on a major aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. (Photo by DREW ANGERER/AFP via Getty Images)

The 118th Congress is no stranger to chaos, but the gloves were well and truly off this weekend.

“I served 20 years in the military,” GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas told CNN on Sunday. “It’s my absolute honor to be in Congress, but I serve with some real scumbags,” he said, taking specific aim at fellow Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Bob Good.

“Matt Gaetz is a bully,’ Rep. Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin added Saturday. “[Texas Rep.] Chip Roy is a bully. Bob Good’s a bully. And the only way to stop a bully is to push back hard.” The three lawmakers referenced by Van Orden are among a group of hardline Republicans opposed to the trio of foreign aid bills passed over the weekend and obliquely threatening House Speaker Mike Johnson’s leadership over his decision to bring the bills to the floor. “The majority of the majority—the vast majority of the majority—is sick and tired of these high school antics,” Van Orden—who himself is no stranger to high school antics—added.

But even as members were taking verbal pot-shots at one another, the House did actually get its act together on Saturday to pass the slate of bills over which Johnson has risked his speakership. All three passed with bipartisan support, so what’s actually in the aid packages—for Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific—that have caused all this fuss? And what difference might they make for U.S. allies? 

As we wrote to you last week and as Lindsey McPherson details in a piece on the site today, Iran’s attack on Israel earlier this month seemed to open a window of opportunity for Johnson to push through the aid that had been languishing since the Senate passed the bound-together $95 billion package back in February.

In what turned out to be a deft political maneuver, Johnson separated the aid into three individual bills—a key request from some of his conservative colleagues—and tacked on a grab-bag bill of popular national security measures, including one that could potentially lead to a ban on TikTok and allow the U.S. government to seize sovereign Russian assets. Even divided into pieces, the three aid bills were largely a match for the Senate-passed package Democrats favored, allowing Johnson to secure their support for the measures.

After clearing key procedural votes on Thursday night and Friday morning—with Democrats joining pro-aid Republicans to overcome hardliner efforts to block the bills—the three aid measures passed in a rare Saturday vote session ahead of the Passover recess. The House approved aid for Israel in a resounding 366-58 vote and funds for the Indo-Pacific with an even more decisive 385-34 tally. The national security bill—dubbed the “21st Century Peace Through Strength Act”— received similarly overwhelming support. The much more controversial aid to Ukraine passed 311-112, but with more Republicans voting against it (112) than for it (101). The Senate is expected to vote on the measures as one bill as early as Tuesday, at which point President Joe Biden has indicated he’ll sign it into law.

The bill authorizing about $26 billion in funding to Israel passed one week after Iran launched a 350 missile-and-drone barrage at targets across Israel and one day after an Israeli counterattack damaged an air defense system at an airbase near the Iranian city of Isfahan. The bill contains $4 billion in funding to replenish the Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defense systems that helped the IDF shoot down 99 percent of the incoming firepower earlier this month. Another $1.2 billion will go toward research and development on the Iron Beam system to shoot down missiles with lasers. The bill would also provide roughly $10 billion in funds for Israel to procure additional advanced weapons systems and to replace depleted stocks, among other uses. Some of the funding—around $2.4 billion—is allocated to pay for the U.S. military’s own operations related to the situation in the region. 

In addition to the military support, the measure allocates roughly $9 billion in humanitarian aid to be dispersed at the Biden administration’s discretion. Those funds were a key demand of Democrats, but 37 in the caucus—a higher tally than on any of the other three bills—still voted against the measure. 

Several progressives released a joint statement explaining their decision. “Our votes against H.R. 8034 are votes against supplying more offensive weapons that could result in more killings of civilians in Rafah and elsewhere,” 19 of the Democratic “no” votes wrote. They said they “believe strongly in Israel’s right to self-defense,” but claimed that “most Americans do not want our government to write a blank check to further Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s war in Gaza.”

The bill also drew 21 “no” votes from hardline Republicans who objected to the humanitarian aid included in the bill, took issue with Johnson’s tactics, were frustrated that there were no border security provisions attached to the aid bills, didn’t like that the price tag wasn’t offset by spending cuts, or some combination of all of the above. “The Israel aid package was paired to gain Democrat support with over $9 billion in humanitarian aid to Gaza and other areas, which will certainly and inevitably find its way into the hands of Hamas—effectively funding both sides of the war and undermining Israel,” Roy, a “no” vote, claimed Saturday. The bill maintains a previous ban on funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), which was found to have links with Hamas, the terrorist organization Israel is fighting in Gaza.

Netanyahu responded to the aid’s passage on Saturday with gratitude. “The US Congress just overwhelmingly passed a much appreciated aid bill that demonstrates strong bipartisan support for Israel and defends Western civilization,” he tweeted. “Thank you friends, thank you America!”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was equally effusive in his praise following the passage of the bill to fund aid to Ukraine. “I thank everyone who supported our package, this is a solution for protecting life,” he tweeted Saturday. “I personally thank Speaker Mike Johnson and all American hearts who believe, as we do in Ukraine, that Russian evil must not be winning.”

The Ukraine aid was by far the largest—and most fraught— measure the House passed Saturday, ringing up to a total of about $60 billion. The previous pot of U.S. funding—passed in 2022—was functionally tapped out by the end of 2023, with aid provisions having slowed significantly in the latter part of the year. Over the winter and early spring, Russia—leveraging Ukraine’s dwindling air defenses—has effectively targeted critical infrastructure and civilian centers with drone and missile attacks, and made some of its most substantial battlefield advances in months, including taking the eastern city of Avdiivka in February. 

The bill appropriates about $16 billion in additional funds for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides funding for the government in Kyiv to place orders with American defense contractors for additional weapons systems and ammunition. As research from Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen shows, most of what has been described as “Ukraine aid” allocated up to this point has actually been spent in the U.S. to build weapons systems, supporting local manufacturing—including in the districts of lawmakers most opposed to aid. Mackenzie Eaglen made a similar point in a piece for The Dispatch back in February.

Another $14 billion of the Ukraine package is set aside for the Pentagon to replace weapons that it’s sent to Ukraine from its own stockpiles, as well as for training Ukrainian troops and other purposes. The act also appropriates $20 billion to support the U.S. military operations in Europe related to the war in Ukraine—like the costs of additional U.S. troop rotations to Romania or Poland. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner said Sunday that, pending the president’s signature, weapons “will be in transit by the end of the week.”

House Republicans also inserted a handful of new provisions that set this bill apart from its Senate predecessor. First, it turns about $10 billion in direct government-t0-government aid into a loan that the U.S. president has the power to forgive—subject to congressional oversight—beginning later this year. 

The provisions give the Biden administration some marching orders, too. The bill would require that the relevant federal agencies submit “a strategy regarding United States support for Ukraine against aggression by the Russian Federation,” including establishing “specific and achievable objectives” and a plan for meeting and measuring them. Plus, it mandates the Pentagon provide Ukraine with the longer-range version of Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS)—as opposed to the version with a more limited range that the Pentagon has already supplied—which NBC News reported in February the Biden administration was increasingly open to doing. 

Though less immediately urgent, the House also passed $8 billion for priorities in the Indo-Pacific, including weapons and training for Taiwan plus additional funds to increase U.S. shipbuilding capacity. 

Some in the U.S. hailed this weekend’s flurry of activity as an important achievement for national security. “First of all, it demonstrates that we’re willing to have the backs of our allies—that we’re no better friend and no worse enemy,” Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Sunday. “It’s important, too, that no U.S. troops are fighting. Our allies are fighting and dying in their own defense.”

“It’s helping our allies fight against two of America’s most dangerous enemies,” Dubowitz added, “Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and Ali Khamenei’s Iran.”

Even so, plenty in the House Republican conference are livid at what they consider a “betrayal” by Speaker Johnson in pushing aid through. “He needs to do the right thing to resign and allow us to move forward in a controlled process,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—the first of three co-sponsors on a motion to vacate the chair, which could result in Johnson’s ouster—said on Sunday. “If he doesn’t do so, he will be vacated.” She hasn’t said when she will activate the motion but has indicated she will wait until after the Passover recess. 

But just as they helped him muscle these measures through, it’s also possible House Democrats could save Johnson from attacks by his own team, as Lindsey McPherson reports today. One of Johnson’s saviors might be newly elected Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, who told The Dispatch, “He shouldn’t be punished for doing the right thing.”

Worth Your Time

  • Former Vice President Mike Pence has words for his former boss. “Serving as vice president in the most pro-life administration in American history was one of the greatest honors of my life,” Pence wrote in the New York Times. “That’s why it was so disheartening for me to see former President Trump’s recent retreat from the pro-life cause. Like so many other advocates for life, I was deeply disappointed when Mr. Trump stated that he considered abortion to be a state-only issue and would not sign a bill prohibiting late-term abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even if it came to his desk,” he wrote. Trump, Pence wrote, was once “committed … to the pro-life movement during our time in office.” But times have changed: “Now, not only is Mr. Trump retreating from that position; he is leading other Republicans astray. One recent example is an Arizona Republican running for the U.S. Senate, who followed Trump’s lead and pledged to oppose a federal ban on late-term abortions. When our leaders aren’t firmly committed to life, others will waver too. Courage inspires imitation. So does weakness.”

Presented Without Comment 

Bloomberg News: Iran’s Supreme Leader: Number of Missiles That Hit Israel ‘Trivial Issue’

Also Presented Without Comment 

Associated Press: Republican Wisconsin Senate Candidate Says He Doesn’t Oppose Elderly People Voting

The Republican candidate in Wisconsin’s closely watched U.S. Senate race emphasized this week that he doesn’t oppose elderly people voting after initially saying that “almost nobody in a nursing home” is at a point in life where they are capable of voting.

In The Zeitgeist

Editor’s note: A “zeitgeist” is “the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era,” and we’d forgive you for occasionally feeling less-than-thrilled about ours. 

It’s why we thought we’d create a recurring place in TMD for things happening in The Culture that are bringing us some collective joy—movies, music, sports, and anything else that makes us drop a quarter in the jar labeled, “Things We Got Excited About This Year.” And while it’s entirely coincidental that our inaugural edition coincides with a new album and music video from Taylor Swift, it feels only right that we crack the seal on something called “In The Zeitgeist” with the most famous pop star of our time: 

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: Kevin argued that Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t hold a candle to Neville Chamberlain “on her best day,” the Dispatch Politics crew reported on Johnson’s foreign aid dilemma and previewed the first week of arguments in Trump’s criminal trial, Jonah offered a meditation on the dangers of “zero-sum” thinking, Nick wondered (🔒) why our politics are getting more obstructionist, and Chris explained (🔒) what we can learn from the November election results in North Carolina and Michigan.
  • On the podcasts: Jonah suggested nature might be healing on this weekend’s Remnant; Jonah, David French, and Adaam responded to Israel’s counterattack against Iran on The Skiff (🔒); and Jamie is joined on The Dispatch Podcast by Tim Miller from The Bulwark to discuss social justice and the American education system. 
  • On the site over the weekend: Luke Nathan Phillips found a few things to praise about the new film Civil War, Christopher J. Scalia reflected on Lord Byron’s life and poetry 200 years after his death, and Mustafa Akyol traced Richard Dawkins’ path toward an openness to the benefits of religion.
  • On the site: Jesse Singal offers his analysis of the U.K.’s Cass Report on gender-transition treatment and Lindsey McPherson reports on the future of Mike Johnson’s speakership.

Let Us Know

What kind of things would you like to see in our new “In The Zeitgeist” segment?

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.

Peter Gattuso is a reporter for The Morning Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2024, he interned at The Dispatch, National Review, the Cato Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. When Peter is not helping write TMD, he is probably watching baseball, listening to music on vinyl records, or discussing the Jones Act.