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Ukraine, Israel aid advances in rare House vote as Democrats help Republicans push it forward

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Ukraine, Israel aid advances in rare House vote as Democrats help Republicans push it forward
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News

Ukraine, Israel aid advances in rare House vote as Democrats help Republicans push it forward

2024-04-20 02:17 Last Updated At:02:20

WASHINGTON (AP) — With rare bipartisan momentum, the House pushed ahead Friday on a foreign aid package of $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and humanitarian support as a robust coalition of lawmakers helped it clear a procedural hurdle to reach final votes this weekend. Friday’s vote produced a seldom-seen outcome in the typically hyper-partisan House, with Democrats helping Republican Speaker Mike Johnson’s plan advance overwhelmingly 316-94. Final House approval could come this weekend, when the package would be sent to the Senate.

It was a victory for the strategy Johnson set in motion this week after he agonized for two months over the legislation. Still, Johnson has had to spend the past 24 hours making the rounds on conservative media working to salvage support for the wartime funding, particularly for Ukraine as it faces a critical moment battling Russia, but also for his own job as the effort to remove him as speaker grew.

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House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., walks with reporters after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With rare bipartisan momentum, the House pushed ahead Friday on a foreign aid package of $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and humanitarian support as a robust coalition of lawmakers helped it clear a procedural hurdle to reach final votes this weekend. Friday’s vote produced a seldom-seen outcome in the typically hyper-partisan House, with Democrats helping Republican Speaker Mike Johnson’s plan advance overwhelmingly 316-94. Final House approval could come this weekend, when the package would be sent to the Senate.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., , center, stops to talk to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., , center, stops to talk to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers in the House pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers in the House pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks on Capitol Hill Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks on Capitol Hill Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

“Ukrainians desperately need lethal aid right now. ... We cannot allow Vladimir Putin to roll through another country and take it," Johnson told the conservative host of The Mark Levin Show about the Russian president's invasion of Ukraine. “These are very serious matters with global implications.”

Johnson said after the vote that while it wasn’t “perfect legislation," it was the “best possible product” Republicans can get given their thin majority in one chamber of Congress.

After months of delay, the House worked slowly but deliberately once Johnson made up his mind this week to plough ahead with a package that matches, with a few alterations, what the Senate passed in February. President Joe Biden sent a swift endorsement of the speaker's plan and, in a rare moment, Donald Trump, the Republican presumed presidential nominee who opposes most overseas aid for Ukraine, has not derailed the speaker's work.

“The world is watching what the Congress does," the White House said in a statement. "Passing this legislation would send a powerful message about the strength of American leadership at a pivotal moment.”

In an extremely rare step, the members of the House Rules Committee joined forces late Thursday in a near midnight vote, the four Democrats giving their support on a procedural step, to push past the Republican majority's three hardline holdouts to send the package to the House floor for debate on a 9-3 vote. It was a moment unseen in recent House memory.

Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said that he spoke with Johnson on Thursday night to ensure the bill would clear the Rules Committee.

"It’s long past time that we support our democratic allies,” Jeffries said after the vote.

“House Democrats have once again cleared the way for legislation that’s important to the American people.”

Johnson will need to rely on Democrats again Saturday to turn back amendments Republicans have offered that could kill the package. One from hardline Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene would reduce spending for Ukraine to zero.

Greene has filed a “motion to vacate” the speaker from office, and it drew another supporter Friday as Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, co-sponsored the motion. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, another co-sponsor, suggested that before the House breaks next week others could follow, building pressure on Johnson to step down.

Rep. Eli Crane, a hardline conservative from Arizona, also said he was “open” to joining the move to oust Johnson.

“I definitely sense that there’s a souring to Republican leadership,” he said.

Greene could launch a bid to evict Johnson from the speaker's office, should she call it up for a vote, much the way Republicans booted Kevin McCarthy from the position last fall. Jeffries, the Democratic leader, remained noncommittal to helping Johnson keep the speaker's gavel, though some Democrats have suggested they would be inclined help defeat the motion to vacate through procedural maneuvers.

With one of the most narrow House majorities in modern times, Johnson can only afford to lose a single vote or two from his Republican ranks to pass any bill. That dynamic has thrust him into the arms of Democrats as he searches for votes to pass the package.

Without his Republican majority fully behind him, Johnson could not shape the package as the ultra-conservatives demand lest he lose Democratic backing. It forced him to leave behind tough security measures to clamp down on migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

At best, Johnson has been able to carve up a Senate-passed version of the bill into separate parts, as is the preference among House Republicans, and the final votes will be on distinct measures — for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies.

The package would also include a fourth provision that includes many Republican priorities that Democrats endorse, or at least are willing to accept. Those include proposals that allow the U.S. to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine; impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl; and potentially ban the video app TikTok if its China-based owner doesn’t sell its stake within a year.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the vote showed “the world that Democrats understand the world and our allies. That we’re going to stand by them and make sure that we give them the support and the aid that they need, that we care about humanitarian concerns.”

He added that in his 26 years in the House, he had never seen one party have to help the other like Democrats did this week.

“It just shows how the Republicans cannot manage the House and the House floor to get things done,” Meeks said.

Republicans, even those who supported the process, were severely disappointed it had come to this.

“I'm concerned,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., who voted for the procedural step but, was nevertheless displeased with the process. “This is reflective of the controversy in the country: How much aid?”

Passing each bill, in votes expected Saturday, will require Johnson to form complicated bipartisan coalitions on each, with Democrats for example ensuring Ukraine aid is approved, but some left-leaning progressives refusing to back military aid for Israel over the destruction of Gaza. Still, Jeffries said that a majority of Democrats would vote Saturday for the packages of aid for Ukraine, Israel and allies in Asia.

The components would then be automatically stitched back together into a single package sent to the Senate where hardliners there are also planning procedural moves to stall final approval.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., walks with reporters after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., walks with reporters after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., , center, stops to talk to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., , center, stops to talk to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers in the House pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers in the House pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 billion national security aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies closer to passage, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks on Capitol Hill Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks on Capitol Hill Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

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Workers at Georgia school bus maker Blue Bird approve their first union contract

2024-05-25 00:36 Last Updated At:00:40

FORT VALLEY, Ga. (AP) — A year after they voted to unionize, workers at a Georgia school bus manufacturer have approved their first contract.

The United Steelworkers union and Blue Bird Corp. said union members at Blue Bird's assembly plants and warehouse in Fort Valley have voted to approve a three-year contract between the company and the union.

The union said the contract will provide all 1,500 covered workers with at least a 12% raise, with some of the lowest-paid workers getting raises of more than 40%. The union says the company will contribute to a retirement plan for workers, share profits, and improve health and safety.

The negotiations had been closely watched by President Joe Biden's administration, in part because Blue Bird has gotten $40 million in federal aid to build electric school buses.

Biden released a statement Thursday saying acting Labor Secretary Julie Su had helped bring the negotiations to a successful agreement. Contract talks after a first union vote are often difficult.

“Congratulations to members of the United Steelworkers and to Blue Bird for proving once again that meeting our clean energy goals is an opportunity to create good-paying union jobs for American workers,” Biden said.

Blue Bird is one of three major school bus manufacturers in the United States, along with Thomas Built Buses, a subsidiary of Daimler Truck AG, and IC Bus, a unit of Navistar International.

Blue Bird had urged employees to reject unionization last year, but CEO Phil Horlock said in a statement Friday that contract talks had been “very collaborative” and that the company is “looking forward to a strong partnership with our USW team members.” The company said higher pay, benefits and opportunities for career development will help Blue Bird attract workers.

“We reached an agreement which provides positive outcomes for all parties involved and will continue to drive our One Team, high-performance culture,” Horlock said. “We are confident that the agreement will further bolster Blue Bird’s position as an employer of choice in the region."

Blue Bird is a publicly held company based in Macon. With about 2,000 employees overall, it has long been the largest private employer in Peach County.

The vote for the USW was a notable win for organized labor in the traditionally unfriendly Deep South.

“Federal investments like these must come with a seat at the table for workers,” United Steelworkers District 9 Director Dan Flippo said in a statement. “Our union has a long history in the South fighting for better wages and working conditions in a variety of industries, but for too long, corporations and their political cronies have tried to characterize the South as a place where they could run away from unions, cut corners and pay workers less."

The share of workers who are unionized nationwide has been falling for decades, dipping to 10% last year, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. And private sector workers are much less likely to be union members, with only 6% paying dues.

Organized labor is an even smaller sliver of Georgia workers, with only 4.4% of workers being union members. The state's business leaders have long been hostile to unions, with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp this year pushing through a law that would bar companies taking state incentives from recognizing unions without a formal secret-ballot election.

FILE -- An all-electric school bus sits on display in front of the Blue Bird Corp. factory in Fort Valley, Ga., on Feb. 8, 2023. The company and the United Steelworkers union said on Thursday, May, 23, 2024 that workers had approved an initial three-year contract after voting to unionize in May 2023. (Matthew Pearson/WABE via AP, file)

FILE -- An all-electric school bus sits on display in front of the Blue Bird Corp. factory in Fort Valley, Ga., on Feb. 8, 2023. The company and the United Steelworkers union said on Thursday, May, 23, 2024 that workers had approved an initial three-year contract after voting to unionize in May 2023. (Matthew Pearson/WABE via AP, file)

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