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US House may start gathering signatures to bypass speaker on Ukraine aid

by Martin Fornusek and Nate Ostiller March 7, 2024 4:30 PM 2 min read
People carry placards and fly a Ukrainian flag outside the U.S. Capitol building on Feb. 11, 2024. (Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images)
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Pro-Ukraine House Republican Brian Fitzpatrick may start gathering signatures as early as March 8 to bypass House Speaker Mike Johnson and force a vote on a Ukraine aid bill, the Voice of America (VoA) reported on March 6.

The so-called "discharge petition" is one of the tools that pro-Ukrainian U.S. lawmakers can use to push forward the $95 billion foreign aid bill, allocating $60 billion for Kyiv. The petition needs to gather at least 218 signatures to hold the vote, meaning it has to find support among both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

The U.S. Senate passed the foreign aid bill in February, but Johnson, Fitzpatrick's colleague from the Republican Party, has so far refused to put it to a vote in his chamber, despite the pressure from the White House and other members of Congress.

Fitzpatrick said he keeps working with Johnson's office to hold a vote through regular channels but will start collecting signatures to bypass the speaker if he does not comply.

"If the House cannot come to a consensus on a bill to be put on the floor, the alternative can't be that Ukraine fails and our border remains open," Fitzpatrick said during a briefing in Congress on March 6.

The move would potentially undermine Johnson's control of the House, which Fitzpatrick has said he does not intend to do.

At the same time, some Democrats in Congress have already voiced their opposition to the move on the grounds it does not contain humanitarian aid, which was included in the Senate bill.

"I find the absence of humanitarian assistance to be quite frankly, cruel and offensive," said Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern.

McGovern added that the only guaranteed way to bring the aid to a vote would be for Johnson to schedule it himself.

Despite the hurdles, Fitzpatrick said he was "very confident" he could gather the required 218 signatures.

Discharge petitions are rarely successful and have only resulted in a positive outcome two times since 2002, according to CBS News.  

Bloomberg: Biden considers tapping into US Army funds for temporary Ukraine aid
Drawing on the Pentagon reserves would free up about $200 million in immediate military aid to Ukraine.
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