Morning Briefing - April 22, 2024
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April 21, 2024

House passes foreign mil aid package; has $150M for NNSA to help Ukraine

By ExchangeMonitor

The supplemental national security appropriations bill the House passed Saturday has about $150 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration to help monitor nuclear Ukrainian power plants occupied by invading Russians.

President Joe Biden (D) has said he will sign the roughly $95-billion proposal, which the House split into three bills and recombined after receiving the measure in February from the Senate, where it passed with a strong bipartisan margin. 

The Senate must now approve the House’s bill, which among other things includes a proposal that could ban the video-based social media app Tik Tok. 

The $150 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) includes about $144 million for the agency’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, plus roughly $5.5 million for NNSA’s Federal Salaries and Expenses account for staff to monitor Russian-occupied power plants in besieged Ukraine, which the Federation again invaded in 2022, claiming that it was protecting ethnic Russians from Ukraine’s government.

In 2023 and since, the Department of Energy has said the NNSA has helped train Ukrainians to detect radiation releases, conduct anti-drone activities and help repair and maintain backup generators and other emergency systems at Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

Russia’s invasion and the ensuing volley of sanctions between Washington and Moscow essentially froze all nuclear cooperation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. Russia sanctioned NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby and others in the agency. 

In Congress, lawmakers of both parties broadly support the U.S. intervention in Ukraine, but hardline, isolationist Republicans, following the lead of party leader and former President Donald Trump (R) have used their slim majority in the lower chamber as leverage to block legislation they oppose.

That eventually led Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) to split the Senate’s bill into pieces to give lawmakers in the House the chance to vote for, or against, what are essentially separate spending proposals in the upper chamber’s original legislation: military aid for Ukraine and military aid for Israel.

Aid for Israel is popular among the House’s hard right Republicans. Aid for Ukraine, which by spending makes up about two thirds of the total aid package the House passed over the weekend, is not. 

Besides aid for Israel and Ukraine, the House bills also had a relatively smaller tranche of funding for defense and security spending to counter China in what is known as the Indo-Pacific region.

In the House on Saturday, the Ukraine bill passed 311 to 112. More Republicans voted against the measure than supported it, but it was a narrow spread, with 112 GOP lawmakers against the bill and 101 for it, splitting the thin red majority nearly down the middle. Almost all House Democrats, 210, supported the bill.

Among the Republicans to support the Ukraine bill were: 

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), whose district borders the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C.

Rep. Charles Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), whose district borders the Y-12 National Security Complex near Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Among the Republicans to oppose the Ukraine bill were: 

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) whose district borders the NNSA’s Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas.

Neither the Israel bill nor the Indo-Pacific aid bill were nearly as controversial in the House over the weekend as the Ukraine bill.

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