Bipartisan lawmakers urge colleagues to back bill combining Ukraine aid, border security

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging their colleagues to back a modified version of a foreign aid and border security package it unveiled last week.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent Sunday and obtained by The Hill, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) underscored the urgency of delivering aid to Ukraine as it works to fend off Russian troops.  

“In the two years since Russia invaded Ukraine in the most brazen campaign of territorial aggression in Europe since World War II, America’s support for Ukraine’s young democracy has been a bipartisan consensus in Congress,” Fitzpatrick and Golden wrote in a letter to the full House. “But as we write, Ukraine’s position is imperiled. Its freedom fighters are running out of ammunition and withdrawing from the East, paving the way for Russia’s further advance. This is a direct result of Congress’ gridlock.”

They continued: “We cannot turn our backs on the Ukrainian people as they fight and die by the tens of thousands to preserve their democracy and sovereignty. They have proven that when equipped with American arms and ammunition, they can win this struggle. We know that without them, they may fail.”

The call for action comes a week after the Senate passed a foreign aid bill that Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has said he would not take up in the House. The $95 billion Senate bill contained money for Ukraine, Israel and other foreign policy priorities but did not include the negotiated bipartisan border agreement that had provisions to increase border security and tighten asylum laws.

Republicans had demanded border policy reforms as a condition for Ukraine aid, but conservatives in both chambers shot down a previous version of the Senate bill that contained a border component.

Centrist lawmakers are hoping their new proposal can garner more support. Their legislation, called the Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act, would allocate $66.32 billion to the Defense Department to support embattled nations, including roughly $47 billion for Ukraine, $10 billion for Israel, $5 billion for the Indo-Pacific and $2 billion to support U.S. Central Command operations.

It also has border provisions, including reinstating the “Remain in Mexico” policy for one year, and would strip the package of any humanitarian aid for Gaza, Ukraine and other global hot spots.

The bill is unlikely to garner sufficient support. Democrats are already throwing cold water on it, instead calling on Johnson to take up the Senate bill.

And many Republicans have said they would only support a bill that includes all of the demands in their H.R. 2 border bill, which passed without a single Democratic vote.

Golden and Fitzpatrick addressed the humanitarian aid in their letter to colleagues, writing, “While our responsibility to protect American interests and democracy is great, so too is our duty to be mindful of America’s resources. That is why our bill narrows prior foreign aid proposals to critical military essentials for Ukraine and Israel. The international community has the will and resources to provide important humanitarian assistance to both Ukraine and Gaza, and the United States should offer to aid in the logistics of its delivery as necessary.”

Fitzpatrick told reporters last week that he would have supported the original foreign aid package that Senate negotiators unveiled after months of negotiation, but he said he understands the difficult situation Johnson is in dealing with a demanding GOP conference.

“The Speaker’s got to manage the conference. He’s doing the best he can to do,” Fitzpatrick said last week. “But I also think it’s incumbent upon members that, if there’s not successful progress on time-sensitive existential matters, that we do what we have to do to protect our country.”

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