Ken Buck becomes first Republican to sign Democrats' discharge petition for Ukraine aid

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Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.) became the first GOP member to sign the House Democrats’ aid discharge position on Thursday, just one day before he is set to retire from Congress.

The discharge petition, formally launched earlier this month by House Democrats, is an attempt to force consideration of a Senate-passed $95 million foreign aid package, which includes $60 billion in aid for Ukraine.

The petition, sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), was up to 188 signatures as of Thursday, according to House clerk records. It requires 218 signatures to force consideration.

Democrats are arguing the discharge petition is the most efficient way to pass aid for Ukraine as funding for the war-torn nation remains stalled amid divisions in Congress.

The Senate’s foreign aid package passed last month by a vote of 70-29, with 22 Republicans voting in support of the legislation. When sent to the House, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) refused to consider it due to its lack of stricter U.S.-Mexico border provisions.

If the petition receives enough votes, Democrats would be able to sidestep Johnson’s opposition to the Senate package and bring it to the floor, where they predict it would pass with over 300 votes.

Buck also signed Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.)’s competing discharge petition, though it already included GOP signatures. This petition would force a vote on a broader Ukraine package and includes the border provisions demanded by House GOP members. It had a total of 16 signatures as of Thursday.

Though Buck is retiring on Friday, his name will remain on the petition until a successor is elected. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said last week a special election to fill his seat will likely be aligned with the state’s primary election on June 25. If his successor also signs on to the petition, Buck’s name will be removed.

The move is a major blow to Johnson and other GOP members, who have insisted on securing border security measures as a condition for giving more aid to Ukraine.

It comes just days after the Colorado Republican was ousted from the conservative House Freedom Caucus. One of the Freedom Caucus members told The Hill the group removed him because he has not been in “good standing” as a member and has not regularly attended the group’s meetings “in months.”

Buck, 65, has frequently broken with the GOP on a variety of issues in recent years. When announcing his retirement from Congress last fall, he pointed to Republicans election denialism and belief the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

A Freedom Caucus member, who requested anonymity to discuss the group’s internal proceedings, said Buck was booted from the group because “he hasn’t been with conservatives on several major issues.”

The member also pointed to Buck’s impending retirement, which they said would leave the conference “hanging with a historically narrow margin.”

His resignation timeline was expedited earlier this month when he announced he would depart Congress on Friday, instead of at the end of his term, as he originally announced last fall. His departure will decrease the House GOP’s majority by one and bring the breakdown in the House to 218 Republicans and 213 Democrats.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who is running for Buck’s seat in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, lambasted Buck’s discharge signature.

“I’m one of his last acts as a Congressman, Ken Buck signed on to the Democrat discharge petition to give Ukraine even more of your money!” Boebert wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Odd, because I’ve been traveling all around the Fourth District and haven’t yet seen the part that borders on Kyiv. Makes sense thats he’s also trying to help the Ukraine First candidate in my election.”

“I have an extra copy of ‘Drain The Swamp,’ would be a good read for him!” she added. “Then again… seems he’s too far gone and has forgotten who he was supposed to be.”

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