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Fitzpatrick

Ukraine moves and TikTok briefing

News: Officials from the FBI, DOJ and Office of the Director of National Intelligence will be on Capitol Hill at 1 p.m. today to give House lawmakers a classified briefing on TikTok, the hugely popular social media app.

The House is slated to vote on a bill Wednesday that would force Chinese-based ByteDance to divest its holdings in TikTok or face a ban. The bill is expected to pass by huge margins in the House but could have problems in the Senate. Much more on this below.

Ukraine: We’re going to focus this morning on the effort to push through tens of billions of dollars in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan in the House. Speaker Mike Johnson is working to kill off any discharge petition in the House, of which there are two right now. This is natural for any speaker, of course. But at the same time, Johnson said he’s made no promises to put a foreign aid bill on the floor.

This doesn’t sit well with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the top Ukraine booster among GOP lawmakers. Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent who was stationed in Kyiv before he came to Congress. Fitzpatrick and his allies are basically done with giving Johnson more time to come up with a Ukraine strategy.

How it would work: Fitzpatrick’s discharge petition is eligible for signatures, he just hasn’t “turned it on” to allow lawmakers to sign. But if 218 members sign on — most Democrats and a handful of Republicans — it would bypass the Rules Committee and come to the floor. Seven days after it reaches the threshold, Fitzpatrick can go to the floor and notice his intent to ask for a vote. A vote must then be set within two days.

Behind the scenes: Fitzpatrick’s bill includes Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan funding like the Senate-approved package, but with significant changes.

For example, Fitzpatrick is putting immigration provisions in the bill, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy. This requires migrants to seek asylum in their home country or in Mexico. The legislation also includes new expulsion authority. These two provisions would last for one year only.

But Fitzpatrick is looking to tweak the bill further to draw more votes. For example, he’s inserting new humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza, a key demand from Democrats. He’s planning to add more funding for Border Patrol to deal with the migrant crisis, which is aimed at winning the Border Patrol union’s support. Another provision would allow for the seizure of Russian assets.

Most notably, Fitzpatrick is doing two things to help get votes from GOP conservatives. “Lend-Lease” language on U.S. weapons sales to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan will be added, a nod to former President Donald Trump. Lend-Lease authority for Ukraine was passed by Congress in 2022, but it expired last year. The United States used similar programs in World War II.

Fitzpatrick will also add language requiring the Biden administration to provide monthly updates to Congress about U.S. strategy in Ukraine.

The vote count: There are loads of members skeptical of Fitzpatrick’s effort here. House Democrats are focused on trying to urge Johnson to put the Senate foreign aid bill on the floor. This is a waste of time since Johnson isn’t going to do that.

But in public, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries continues to demand Johnson give members a chance to vote on the Senate bill.

“You have a bipartisan, comprehensive national security bill that passed the Senate with 70 votes,” Jeffries told us Monday. “If Johnson were to call it up, there are at least 300 members of the House of Representatives who would support it.”

Not all Democrats are going to take Jeffries’ lead.

“We should’ve done this six months ago,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who said he would sign a petition. “It’s an embarrassment.”

Democrats are hopeful that public pressure can force Johnson to act here, likely after the appropriations process is over. Again, we aren’t too hot on this theory.

If Fitzpatrick’s effort is to be successful, the Pennsylvania Republican has to convince lawmakers that this is the only way to get aid to Ukraine. He’ll have to make the argument that the Senate’s bill is a non-starter with Republicans and the GOP will need border provisions to ease the passage of more money to Ukraine.

– Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan, Max Cohen and Mica Soellner

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