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D.C. Download: Can Ukraine aid get over the finish line?

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) said he would not support Ukraine aid without funding for U.S.-Mexico border security.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) voted for a bipartisan national security bill early Tuesday morning, advancing the push to fund Ukraine and other priorities out of the Senate in a 70-29 vote.

But what happens now that the House — among the most dysfunctional bodies in recent Washington history, the Wizards notwithstanding — has its hands on it?

The News of the Week: National security funding 

The Senate’s $95 billion national security supplemental — passed with bipartisan support early Tuesday with funding for Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and Taiwan — was always going to be a tough sell in the House. Supplementals refer to spending bills Congress passes beyond its traditional appropriations process.

After nearly all Senate Republicans voted down a similar product with border changes, in part because House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said the bill would be dead on arrival in the House, 22 GOP senators joined with most Democrats to vote for the pared-down, national security-focused version this week.

Now, the House is at an impasse — precisely because Republican members now say border provisions are needed in order to gain their support.

In short: the border bill wasn’t good enough for Republicans. The border-less bill needs more border funding. And if you’re starting to get bored of this whole saga — which has thrown Congress for a loop not seen since the drama over Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — I don’t blame you.

But the stakes are high, especially for Ukraine, where soldiers are running out of ammunition as the war recently hit its two-year mark.

Let’s start with what’s in the bill. There’s:

  • $60 billion in security assistance for Ukraine (much of which goes to American weapons manufacturers)
  • $14 billion in aid to Israel
  • $8 billion to Taiwan and regional allies standing up to China
  • $9.1 billion for humanitarian aid, including in Gaza 

So what’s so divisive?

Since 2023, a growing chorus of House Republicans has objected to additional Ukraine aid. It’s a stance backed by former President Donald Trump, who has consistently said that European nations should take on a greater responsibility in helping Ukraine, that the war would never have started under his watch, and that he would consider letting Vladimir Putin “take over something” in the region.

In a vote in September, more than half of House Republicans opposed sending new aid to the beleaguered nation — a stance in line with about half of Republicans polled nationally in December.

Now, Johnson must consider what path to take. The bill has enough support that it would likely pass if he put it on the floor — but doing so would almost certainly incur the wrath of his conference and potentially lead to another motion to vacate, which took down Johnson’s predecessor, McCarthy. 

He could try to amend the bill to add border provisions or write a different supplemental entirely, but again, with Ukraine becoming a third rail for a sizable segment of his caucus, doing so would be risky — and if the Senate could not find agreement on a deal that included border provisions, the odds that the House could do so are probably worse than hitting on 19 in blackjack. (Editor’s Note: Continue reading for more gambling related puns)

The Nevada Angle

I checked in with Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the delegation’s lone Republican and an interesting case study on Ukraine. Amodei supported Ukraine aid at every opportunity until two amendment votes in September, when he cast his first votes against it. Since then, he has maintained support for Ukraine funding broadly, but insisted it include guardrails.

On Wednesday, he told me that he supports solving problems in Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan — but that any package must also address the southern border as well to earn his vote. Last week, he told me the Senate border deal, which would have authorized the president to shut down the border to most potential asylum seekers, was not workable because of a lack of trust in the Biden administration.

“You think I'm going back to my neighborhood and going, ‘It's OK to ignore the border?’” Amodei said. “I'm not doing that.”

Amodei said he was open to the speaker splitting the question — introducing various parts of the legislation in piecemeal fashion to receive separate votes. But he said the border provisions would need to be voted on first — and only then would he consider voting for national security assistance.

Meanwhile, various groups are trying to put together their own compromises on the border. That includes the New Democrat Coalition — a center-left group of nearly 100 House Democrats including Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) — who presented a framework of their own for the border, which pairs increased funding for border enforcement and the asylum system with a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and expanded visas for legal immigration — a more immigrant-friendly policy than the one previously rejected by the Senate.

In a press conference Thursday, Lee framed immigration as an economic issue — and a boon to her district.

“When I'm in my community, in Las Vegas, whether I'm talking to a big casino owner, or I'm talking to a small business owner, or I'm talking to a construction company, or a renewable energy company … the number one issue that gets brought to my attention is workforce issues, and lack of workforce,” she said. 

The Impact

Ironically, if Johnson were to put the national security supplemental on the floor, it would pass — something even its most fervent opponents acknowledge. There are still a few other ways it could get to the floor, which I’ve listed here and, in staying on theme, included blackjack odds.

  • Discharge petition: If a majority of the House signs onto a petition, the bill can be brought to the floor, circumventing Republican leadership. They’re rare because, even in a House with a narrow majority, potentially amenable Republicans have thus far been unwilling to buck their leadership by signing petitions. And even if enough Republicans did sign on, Democrats would likely lose a handful of progressive members over the supplemental’s Israel provisions. Corresponding blackjack hand: Hitting on 18 (long shot, but not impossible)
  • Bipartisan agreement: Already, a group of moderates in both parties have come together to release their own Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan border bill. On the border, the bill would permit the complete closure of the border to asylum processing for one year if the Department of Homeland Security deems it necessary, quickens the deportation process and reinstates the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy for one year, in which migrants entering the U.S. from Mexico are returned there while their asylum claims are being processed. Given that the Senate couldn’t agree on a border compromise, I doubt the House can, either. Corresponding blackjack hand: Hitting on 19 (close to impossible)

Around the Capitol

💎45X-cluded— Nevada’s senators were quick to criticize the Department of the Treasury after it released guidance on an energy tax credit from the Inflation Reduction Act that excluded critical mineral mining from qualifying.

The proposed rule for the 45X Advanced Manufacturing Production tax credit, meant to financially incentivize American manufacturing of clean energy components, left the costs of acquiring and extracting raw minerals out of its list of production activities that qualify for the tax break.

That obviously didn’t pass muster with Cortez Masto, Rosen and a host of other mining-friendly senators. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Cortez Masto led nine Democratic senators asking her to reconsider the proposed rule.

🐴Representing the animals — Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) introduced a bill with Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) targeting animal abusers, adding another piece of legislation to her record on animal advocacy.

The bill would commission a study looking at the links between those who abuse animals and those who go on to commit violence against humans while authorizing a new grant program for organizations working to fight animal cruelty.

🏠Horsford vs. Navy Federal — Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) is leading the charge to investigate discriminatory lending practices at Navy Federal Credit Union after publication of a report detailing the credit union’s high mortgage rejection rate for Black applicants relative to white ones.

Horsford met with Navy Federal’s CEO this week in his capacity as Congressional Black Caucus chair. The meeting is part of a broader agenda Horsford is pursuing on home affordability and closing racial wealth gaps by promoting homeownership.

Notable and Quotable:

“The majority of Republicans voted against it in the Senate.”

— Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), on the national security supplemental in the Senate, which was supported by 22 of 49 Republicans

Vote of the Week

H.Res.863: On Agreeing to the Resolution, as Amended: Impeaching Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, for high crimes and misdemeanors

On their second go-around, House Republicans impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas by a one-vote margin. He is now the second-ever Cabinet official to be impeached.

Amodei: YES

Horsford: NO

Lee: NO

Titus: NO

Staffing Announcements

Stephanie Justice is now a regional press secretary at the Democratic Party. She previously worked for the Nevada Democratic Party.

If you have a new position in Nevada politics, reach out and let me know! 


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