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Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Congressman Greg Landsman 'disgusted' by what's happened in the House this week

A close-up of Greg Landsman wearing a bight blue t-shirt while looking off in the distance
Aaron Doster
Greg Landsman sits for an interview with the Associated Press, Sept. 16, 2022, in Cincinnati.

Democrat Greg Landsman of Cincinnati hasn't been in the U.S. House for long — he is running for his second two-year term this year — but he came in at the dawn of an era of self-imposed gridlock by a slim Republican majority.

And he is appalled by what he has seen this week.

It started when Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, an ally of the indicted former president Donald Trump, declared a $118 billion aid package deal brokered by a bipartisan group in the Senate "dead on arrival" before Johnson had even read it.

The $118 billion was for border security and aid to Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and humanitarian aid for war-torn regions like the Gaza Strip.

The House GOP rejecting it out of hand blew the Cincinnati Democrat's mind.

a man in a blue suit, white shirt and glasses looks down toward the floor
J. Scott Applewhite
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., stands outside his office during a meeting with the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Amir Ohana, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.

"I've seen a lot in my first term, but nothing as disgusting as this," Landsman said, a sentiment he echoed on the House floor.

"Clearly he is taking his cues from Trump," Landsman said of Johnson. "Donald Trump wants to run on the border issue and he doesn't want to give President Biden a win."

Trump, too, has made it clear to his Republican allies in Congress that he wants no more U.S. aid going to Ukraine.

Now, though, it seems that another member of the Tri-State congressional delegation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is following the Trump line and signaling to his GOP caucus that they should not help Majority Leader Chuck Schumer get the 60 votes he needs to advance the aid package to a Senate vote.

LISTEN: Greg Landsman discusses his first 100 days in Congress

Wednesday morning, Schumer attempted an end run, announcing that he would bring an aid package to the floor of the Senate that is stripped of the border security money.

The first bill Schumer put forward Wednesday was a bill that dealt only with the border security. A combination of Republican senators and a few Democrats killed that idea on a 50-49 vote.

Schumer then asked the Senate to approve a $95 billion bill, stripped of the border security money, that would cover aid to Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Gaza, Ukraine and other places around the world.

The first vote on was on whether or not to go forward with debate on the foreign aid passage. That passed by a vote of 58 to 41.

On Thursday, Schumer asked for vote on the aid package itself and it passed with ease - 67-32, sending it on to the House.

Ohio's junior senator, Republican J.D. Vance did not vote in favor of the package on Wednesday. On Tuesday, he declared his opposition to Ukraine aid in a rather crass way.

"The idea that we are committed to supporting whatever comes out of this negotiation is pure unadulterated bullsh*t," Vance said. "We supported a negotiation to bring common sense border security to this country. We did not agree to a fig leaf to send another $61 billion to Ukraine."

His Democratic colleague from Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown, begs to differ.

"The politicians who are blocking this deal would rather sit by and do nothing as fentanyl comes into our country and devastates Ohioans," said Brown, who is running for reelection this year. "We must pass this bipartisan bill to save our border and address the fentanyl crisis in America."

Three Republicans are running in the March 19 Ohio primary to face Brown in the fall: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, luxury car dealer Bernie Moreno (who has Trump's endorsement) and State Sen. Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls. All three say they oppose the $118 billion border security and foreign aid bill.

Here's how the original $118 billion would be allocated:

  • $28 billion for border security;
  • $60.5 billion for aid to Ukraine;
  • $14.1 billion in aid to Israel;
  • $10 in humanitarian aid, including for those in the Gaza Strip;
  • And $4.8 billion in aid for Taiwan.

But now border security is not part of the package, meaning House Republicans got what they wanted - an issue for Trump to run on in the fall.

House Speaker Johnson tried and failed to get the House to pass standalone aid for Israel on Tuesday. It was overwhelmingly defeated.

Many Republicans voted against it, including two from the Tri-State, Thomas Massie of Kentucky's 4th Congressional District and Warren Davidson, a Troy Republican whose district includes much of Hamilton County.

So did Landsman and nearly all the House Democrats.

ANALYSIS: Trump looks to go 2-for-2 in choosing Ohio's next U.S. senator

Landsman said Tuesday night that he and Rep. Dan Goldman of New York tried to amend Johnson's standalone bill for Israel aid to add funding for humanitarian aid, and aid for Ukraine and Taiwan.

"It was denied but we'll submit it as a bill and likely a discharge petition," Landsman said.

A discharge petition is a mechanism in the House rules where, if 218 House members — a bare majority of the 435-member House — sign the petition, a vote is taken to allow a vote on the discharge petition, which then will lead to an up-or-down vote on the legislation.

But, Wednesday afternoon, Landsman told WVXU that if the Senate sends a foreign aid package to the House, with money for humanitarian assistance, he would support it.

And, on Thursday, the Senate did just that.

Now, Landsman hopes there will be enough pressure on the speaker to bring it to a floor vote.

"A discharge petition would only be necessary if the speaker refuses to bring it to the House floor for a vote," Landsman said.

Landsman, who is Jewish, really wants humanitarian aid to go the Gaza Strip, where many innocent Palestinians have seen their lives destroyed in the crossfire of Israel's war on Hamas.

"People in the Gaza Strip need our help," Landsman said. "And helping people is what we all should be here to do."

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.