Biden asks Congress to okay $14 billion in aid to Israel, $61 billion for Ukraine

But Republican paralysis amid failure to elect speaker could hamper efforts to secure funds for allies

US President Joe Biden listens as he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in an expanded bilateral meeting with Israeli and US government officials, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden listens as he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in an expanded bilateral meeting with Israeli and US government officials, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden urgently requested Friday military aid for Ukraine and Israel in a massive $106 billion national security package, but Republican paralysis in Congress means it will hit an immediate wall.

Biden’s demand came a day after he drew a direct link between the Hamas attack on Israel and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to convince Americans that the United States must show global leadership.

The 80-year-old Democrat argued in an impassioned Oval Office speech that the huge sums involved — a total of $105.85 billion, including $61 billion in military aid for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel — would secure US interests for generations to come.

But Biden’s request comes as the US House of Representatives remains in chaos, with Republicans, who hold a narrow majority, in their worst meltdown for decades and unable to elect a speaker.

“The world is watching and the American people rightly expect their leaders to come together and deliver on these priorities,” White House Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young said in a letter to Congress.

“I urge Congress to address them as part of a comprehensive, bipartisan agreement in the weeks ahead.”

Biden’s mega aid package yokes a host of disparate crises together in the hope that an appeal to US national unity will help shake House Republicans out of their dysfunction.

And it throws an olive branch to Republicans in the form of $6.4 billion in funding for the migration crisis at the southern border with Mexico — a central concern for the right-wing party.

The package also includes $7 billion for countering China and strengthening allies in the Asia-Pacific region, and over $9 billion for humanitarian assistance for Gaza, Ukraine and Israel.

But most importantly, however, the huge funding ask is an attempt to bolster waning support for Ukraine by linking it with funding for Israel — which does have widespread bipartisan backing.

A growing number of Republicans — and US voters — oppose adding to the $43.9 billion in security assistance that the United States has committed to Ukraine since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

An earlier request for aid for Ukraine was stalled when Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted in a rebellion in September.

In the 17 days since, no Republican has been able to gain enough votes to replace him. The latest to try, Donald Trump-ally Jim Jordan, has already failed twice.

Biden’s speech on Thursday drew the link between the wars in Ukraine and Israel as part of a vision of the US as a “beacon to the world” confronting “terrorists” like Hamas and “tyrants” like Putin.

The Kremlin on Friday denounced Biden’s comments.

“We do not accept such a tone in relation to the Russian Federation, in relation to our president,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Peskov said such “rhetoric is hardly suitable for responsible leaders of states, and it can hardly be acceptable to us.”

US efforts to “contain” Russia would prove ineffective, he added.

Biden was due to welcome European Union leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen to the White House later Friday, at a summit set to deliver a message of unity on conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

On Thursday Biden delivered a rare speech to the nation from the Oval Office, pledging unwavering support for Israel’s security, “today and always.”

“We’re facing an inflection point in history, one of those moments where the decisions we make today are going to determine the future for decades to come,” he said.

The Israel-Hamas war erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw at least 2,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing 200-250 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what Biden has previously highlighted as “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

Israel says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

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