In a decisive move, the United States House of Representatives endorsed a Republican-sponsored plan on Thursday, allocating a substantial $14.3 billion in aid to Israel in its ongoing battle against Hamas. The passage of this measure, with a vote tally of 226-196, was largely divided along party lines, as most Republicans supported the bill, while the majority of Democrats opposed it.
Notably, this bill’s introduction marked the first significant legislative action under the new Republican House Speaker, Mike Johnson. However, the path forward for this legislation faces significant hurdles, with President Joe Biden vowing to exercise his veto power. Furthermore, Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, confirmed his intent not to bring this bill to a vote in the Senate.
President Biden has urged Congress to ratify a more comprehensive $106 billion emergency spending package, encompassing allocations for Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine, and humanitarian assistance. Senator Schumer emphasized that the Senate would consider a bipartisan bill addressing these broader priorities.
The House-approved bill allocates substantial funding for Israel’s military, including a notable $4 billion directed toward bolstering Israel’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling defense systems, fortifying its ability to counter short-range rocket threats. The bill also encompasses transfers of equipment from US stockpiles.
Representative Kay Granger, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, during the legislative debate, emphasized the urgency of this aid bill, asserting, “This is the first step in the process, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the bill so we can get funds to Israel as soon as possible.”
The House Republican leadership announced plans to offset the cost of the aid to Israel by reducing funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an inclusion in President Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act that faced Republican opposition from the outset.
Republicans justified their efforts to curtail IRS funding by contending that it was essential to counterbalance the military aid to Israel. This move comes at a time when Israel’s tanks and troops engaged in a confrontation with Hamas on the outskirts of Gaza City.
Democrats registered strong opposition to these cuts, characterizing them as a politically motivated “poison pill” that would inflate the nation’s budget deficit by undermining tax collection. Moreover, they emphasized the importance of continuing support for Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian invasion that commenced in February 2022.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the IRS cuts and the Israel aid outlined in the standalone bill could result in an additional $30 billion added to the existing US budget deficit, currently estimated at $1.7 trillion.
Representative Rosa DeLauro, the top-ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, accused Republicans of impeding aid by championing a partisan bill that excludes provisions for Ukraine and humanitarian aid for civilians. She asserted, “This bill abandons Ukraine. We will not abandon Israel, and we will not abandon Ukraine. But their fates are intertwined.”
Despite widespread support for Ukraine among Democrats and many Republicans, a small yet vocal faction of Republicans questioned the allocation of more funds to the Ukrainian government at a time of burgeoning budget deficits.
Speaker Johnson, who voted against Ukraine aid on multiple occasions before assuming the role of Speaker last month, intends to introduce a comprehensive bill, combining assistance for Ukraine with provisions for enhancing security at the US-Mexico border.
He stated during a press conference on Thursday, “Ukraine will be addressed shortly. It will be the next priority. We aim to unite border security with Ukraine, as we believe we can garner bipartisan support for both of these vital matters.”
To date, Congress has authorized $113 billion in aid for Ukraine since the inception of the Russian invasion.
Editorial Note: The passing of this aid package for Israel, despite objections from Democratic leaders, underscores the complexities of the ongoing political landscape in the United States. As these legislative developments unfold, we will closely monitor the evolving situation and provide updates as warranted.