The Path Ahead for Supplemental Security Assistance: Ukraine and Israel in the Balance

In February, the Senate passed a supplemental security assistance bill for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan by a vote of 70 to 29. Despite passing with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate, the bill’s fate in the House has been fraught. Following Iran’s attacks against Israel over the weekend, the House is sure to put aid for Israel on the House floor this week. It is unclear if Speaker Mike Johnson will separate the aid into two or three separate packages or combine it into one larger package similar to the Senate bill. The House proposal will undoubtedly deviate from the Senate-passed bill. Regardless, the Senate’s version will still serve as the baseline for the House proposal, so it is worth a closer examination of what it contains. This article examines the contents of the Senate bill and the potential path forward for Ukraine assistance in the House.

Q1: What is in the Senate bill?

A1: The $95.3 billion national security supplemental package includes funding for Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific, as well as for the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act.

Remote Visualization
Remote Visualization

Of the amount allocated for Ukraine, the largest portion would be destined for the Department of Defense (DOD), similar to previous packages. The DOD as a whole would receive about $47.7 billion, accounting for 68.9 percent of the total Ukraine-related amount. Of the DOD-specific funds, 71.3 percent (or 49.1 percent of the total) is specifically for the DOD’s Operations and Maintenance (O&M) spending, making it the single-largest program to receive funds in this round.

The second-largest recipient would be the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which would receive $15.2 billion, or approximately 22 percent of the total. More than half of the amount allocated for USAID would be for its Economic Support Fund (ESF), accounting for 11.4 percent of the total Ukraine-related funds and making it the second-largest funded program. ESF has been one of the main focus areas in previous packages, and this round shows the continued support for it.

USAID’s international disaster assistance program would receive 8.2 percent of the total amount, or 37.2 percent of the funds for the agency. However, the amount allocated for general operating expenses for USAID, international disaster assistance, and migration and refugee assistance is for the conflicts in both Israel and Ukraine. How these funds would be divided between the two countries is left to the discretion of the Biden administration. It is safe to assume that the majority of the funds allocated to international disaster assistance and migration and refugee assistance would be dedicated to Israel.

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Of the amount allocated to Israel, the majority of funds would be for defense purposes. The DOD would receive $9.6 billion, including funds for Israel’s air defense programs such as Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Iron Beam. Additionally, Israel would receive $3.5 billion in foreign military financing for advanced weapons systems, defense articles, and defense services. Small amounts are also dedicated to peacekeeping operations in the Sinai, international narcotics control and law enforcement, and the Worldwide Security Protection program. 

Q2: What will the House proposal look like?

A2: It is unclear what the final House proposal will look like. However, one thing is almost certain: the House will not take up the Senate-passed version of the bill without significant changes. Rumors continue to swirl about possible policy riders and alterations to the Senate bill. Some provisions under consideration include the following:

  • Lend-Lease Provision: This would make assistance take the form of a forgivable loan. Former president Donald Trump floated this idea on the campaign trail. This could give cover to some Republicans that want to support Ukraine but find it politically difficult. At a joint press conference between former president Trump and House Speaker Johnson, the former president signaled that he could be supportive of Ukraine funding being brought to the House floor in the form of a forgivable loan.
  • The Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act: This legislation allows the United States to use seized Russian sovereign assets to pay for assistance to Ukraine.
  • Military Assistance Only: Some lawmakers have floated the idea of a package that only provides military assistance to Ukraine and omits economic and humanitarian support. If this transpires, the European Union and other donor countries would need to pick up the tab on the remainder of the assistance, which is vital for ensuring that the Ukrainian government can continue to fulfill basic functions and that the economy remains afloat.

Q3: What about the two discharge petitions?

A3: Two discharge petitions are currently circulating in the House. The first, Discharge Petition No. 9, spearheaded by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), seeks to force consideration of the Senate-passed measure on the House floor. As of April 12, the petition has 195 signatories but needs 218 to force consideration. It is unlikely to get there. Some progressive Democrats are unwilling to sign the petition due to the funding for Israel that is included. Few Republicans have been willing to sign on.

The second such measure, Discharge Petition No. 10, seeks a vote on the Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act authored by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). This bill omits the economic and humanitarian assistance included in the Senate bill and proposes a total of $66 billion in strictly military assistance—$47.7 billion for Ukraine, $10.4 billion for Israel, and $4.9 billion for U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific. This petition has only garnered 16 signatures of the 218 needed.

In sum, neither of these efforts are likely to bear fruit. However, if Speaker Johnson fails to move on legislation in the coming weeks, it is possible that some Republicans will break ranks and sign on to the McGovern petition and force a vote on the Senate bill.

Q4: How do Iran’s attacks against Israel change the calculus?

A4: Undoubtedly, Iran’s attacks on Israel increase the sense of urgency for the House to act. Over the weekend, Speaker Johnson said that a security supplemental package would be put on the floor this week. Aid for Israel will garner a large majority of Republican support, while it will likely draw opposition from the progressive left. Conversely, Democrats remain united on Ukraine support, while the Freedom Caucus has been opposed. 

If aid to Israel and Ukraine is packaged together, the effort would likely garner the votes to pass the House on suspension. However, Speaker Johnson would undoubtedly face anger, and a possible motion to vacate, from the Freedom Caucus ranks. Given the slim majority, he would be forced to turn to Democrats to save his speakership and, more importantly, save the House from the gridlock that ensued following former speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ousting last fall. Democrats have signaled that they would be willing to consider such a move if the supplemental does not contain any controversial policy riders. 

The bottom line is that Iran’s attacks give Johnson a compelling narrative for moving forward on bipartisan legislation and doing so quickly.

Q5: What happens if the House fails to act on Ukraine?

A5: Ukraine is in a perilous situation. In the past month, Russia has stepped up attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and is slowly making gains on the battlefield. Due to supply shortages, Ukrainian forces can only fire one round of artillery for every five fired by Russian forces. Air defenses are running low. Without aid soon, Russia will undoubtedly begin to gain ground more steadily. For Ukraine, holding ground is much easier than recovering ground that has been lost. 

If Russian forces are allowed to succeed in Ukraine, they will not stop there. Europe will be destabilized and Russian president Vladimir Putin could use Ukraine as a staging ground to threaten NATO states. This would risk drawing the United States, and U.S. troops, into direct conflict with Russia. As it stands, Ukraine is not asking for U.S. troops on the ground, only assistance. Providing requested assistance to Ukraine is not only the right thing to do but is in the national security interest of the United States. In the battle between a democratic world order represented by Ukraine and authoritarian dictatorship represented by Putin’s Russia, the choice should be clear. The United States should continue to stand with Ukraine.

Elizabeth Hoffman is the director of congressional and government affairs and fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Jaehyun Han is a research associate with the CSIS iDeas Lab. Shivani Vakharia is the associate director of congressional and government affairs at CSIS.

Jaehyun Han
Research Associate for Data Analysis, iDeas Lab