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Jeffries pushes Senate-passed foreign aid bill as centrists float long-shot alternative compromise

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House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries wants Democrats to stick to a Senate-passed bipartisan foreign aid bill as centrists mount a long-shot bid to force action on a pared-down package.

“The only way forward is the bipartisan, comprehensive Senate-passed national security bill,” the New York Democrat said Wednesday evening. “House Republicans need to put it on the floor for an up-or-down vote. And everybody under the Capitol dome knows it will pass.”

A cross section of House centrists, including from the Blue Dog coalition and Republicans from the Problem Solvers Caucus, are teeing up a discharge petition to force a floor vote on a package pairing border policy changes and national security aid. Speaker Mike Johnson has so far refused to move on the Senate-passed bill — which includes military and humanitarian aid but no border policy — with House conservatives digging in against further Ukraine assistance.

Discharge petitions are rarely successful at picking up the necessary 218 signatures to force a bill to the House floor, though the threat of a rank-and-file revolt can sometimes spur actions from leadership. Those pushing the discharge petition insist that’s their ultimate goal: Pressuring leaders to put some foreign aid package on the floor.

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), one of the bill’s backers, said in a brief interview that the effort was the start of the process to get a foreign aid bill across the finish line.

“It’s still a work in progress,” he said. “We’ve got to try every possible effort to bring it up for a vote. What final form it takes, I think, is still obviously a question.”

And Trump-district Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.) said in a statement she was backing the discharge petition effort because it was “just common sense where I live.”

“My loyalty is to my district and the bipartisan work they sent me here to do,” she said. “This discharge petition is the only bipartisan vehicle moving in the House. People might wish something else was moving forward, but it’s not, so let’s see the world as it is.”

At the same time, there’s no guarantee the pared-down bill would get universal Democratic support either. The lack of humanitarian aid for Gaza and border policy changes, like a return of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, could be anathema to many Democrats.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, one of the Republicans leading the effort, told reporters he was open to adding humanitarian aid to their bill but believed they faced a vote-counting challenge: “Every change you are going to make you are going to add or lose votes.”

House Democratic leaders have also begun quietly prepping another discharge petition to force the Senate-passed bill to the House floor, though some in the party have already signaled they would oppose the Senate-passed bill over concerns about the inclusion of unconditioned military aid for Israel and a desire for more humanitarian aid.

Discharge petitions and their bucking of leadership could also be a deal-breaker for many lawmakers who would otherwise support the foreign aid. Centrist Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said the discharge petition would be his “least favorite way to go” and said he had to talk to the speaker about Ukraine aid.