Congress just passed sweeping foreign aid legislation. Now what?

For all the latest developments in Congress, follow WTOP Capitol Hill correspondent Mitchell Miller at Today on the Hill.

Lawmakers return this week after passing a historic $95 billion foreign aid package that was in doubt for months, even as many of its members worried that “the world is on fire.”

Despite a U.S. House of Representatives that has one the narrowest majorities in history, a threat to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson if he moved forward on aid to Ukraine and growing GOP isolationism, the legislation sailed through both chambers on bipartisan votes.

After final passage from the U.S. Senate, the legislation was signed into law last week by President Biden and military assistance is already going to Ukraine to bolster its fight against Russia.

Passage of the sweeping measure will likely be the last major accomplishment of the 118th Congress during this election year.

What’s ahead?

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after last week’s vote that it confirms something he’s pointed out many times: “The only way to get something done in divided government is bipartisanship.”

But while Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell worked together to get the legislation across the finish line, bipartisanship will likely be in short supply the rest of the year.
Control of the Senate, the House and the White House will all be at stake when voters go to the polls in November.

That means political rhetoric is only going to intensify as the campaign ramps up across the country.

Still, Schumer still holds out hope for some modest legislative accomplishments.

He’s cited a wide range of bills under consideration, including one that would cap insulin costs at $35; a bill dealing with child online safety; and legislation to address rail safety and cannabis reform.

“We’ve got a lot to do and, if we can work in a bipartisan way, we will,” he said.

More flights at Reagan National Airport?

The Senate also has a deadline coming up next month for reauthorization of the FAA. It has already been extended several times and the latest deadline is May 10. A major issue within the legislation is whether to expand the number of flights at Reagan National Airport.

Members of Congress from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. all strongly oppose adding flights, arguing the airport is already too busy and that it would compromise public safety. Lawmakers were quick to cite an incident earlier this month when there was a near-miss involving JetBlue and Southwest aircraft as the passenger planes taxied down runways.

“The near-miss underscores the urgent need to reject any changes to slot and perimeter rules, which govern the number of flights that can safely operate out of DCA and the distance of these flights,” U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia said in a statement after the April 18 incident.

Earlier this year, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation voted to allow an increase in the number of flights in and out of the airport.

Future of House Speaker Johnson

Another issue moving forward is whether Speaker Johnson will be able to hold onto his job.

A core of conservatives within the House GOP remain upset with him for allowing the vote on more than $60 billion in aid for Ukraine to move forward, as well as several other issues. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., continues to hold out her threat to move ahead with a vote for a motion to vacate the chair, which could potentially oust Johnson.

But she only has two co-sponsors to the motion and Johnson appears to have gained some respect from other members of the Republican conference after he decided to bring the foreign aid package to the floor.

Also, some Democrats have said publicly that they would vote to keep Johnson in the speakership if a vote takes place. But Johnson still faces major challenges if he tries to pass any legislation with a GOP-only majority.

Republicans now hold a majority of 217-212, which continues to change. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., died last week after suffering a heart attack earlier in the month. Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., recently decided to leave the House.

This Tuesday, a special election will be held in New York to complete the two-year term of Democrat Brian Higgins, who stepped down in February.

Democrats are favored to retain the seat, which would narrow Johnson’s majority to 217-213. With full attendance, that means Johnson could only afford to lose a single GOP defector on party-line votes.

But three more special elections in various states are scheduled in the coming weeks in districts previously held by Republicans. GOP victories in those races, which are likely, could raise Johnson’s majority to 220-213 by this summer.

Among the special elections is one for the California seat of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted last year and subsequently left Congress.

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Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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