The US House of Representatives on Thursday voted to advance $14.5 billion in military aid to Israel, but the bill appeared to be dead on arrival after the leader of the Senate’s Democratic majority along with the White House made clear that they would not sign off on legislation that does not include assistance for both Israel and Ukraine.
The aid package pushed by new House Speaker Mike Johnson also requires the emergency aid to be offset with billions in cuts from the Internal Revenue Service, which Democrats approved last year, and does not include humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza.
US President Joe Biden has said he would veto the bill, which was approved 226-196, with 12 Democrats joining most Republicans on a largely party-line vote.
The 12 Democrats who voted with Republicans were among the party’s most pro-Israel lawmakers: Representatives Josh Gottheimer, Jared Moskowitz, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel, Jared Golden, Juan Vargas, Angie Craig, Don Davis, Greg Landsman, Darren Soto, Haley Stevens and Fredrica Wilson.
Johnson says the Republican package will provide Israel with the assistance needed to defend itself, free hostages held by Hamas and eradicate the Palestinian terror group which massacred 1,400 people in Israel last month, accomplishing “all of this while we also work to ensure responsible spending and reduce the size of the federal government.”
Democrats say the approach will only delay help for Israel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has warned that the “stunningly unserious” bill has no chance of passing in the Senate.
The first substantial legislative effort in Congress to support Israel in the war falls far short of Biden’s request for nearly $106 billion that would also back Ukraine as it fights Russia, along with US efforts to counter China and address security at the border with Mexico.
The White House’s veto warning said Johnson’s approach “fails to meet the urgency of the moment” and would set a dangerous precedent by requiring emergency funds to come from cuts elsewhere.
While the amount for Israel in the House bill is similar to what Biden sought, the White House said the Republican plan’s failure to include humanitarian assistance for Gaza is a “grave mistake” as the crisis deepens.
Biden on Wednesday called for a pause in the war to allow for relief efforts.
“This bill would break with the normal, bipartisan approach to providing emergency national security assistance,” the White House wrote in its statement of administration policy on the legislation. It said the GOP stance “would have devastating implications for our safety and alliances in the years ahead.”
To pay for the bill, House Republicans have attached provisions that would cut billions from the IRS that Democrats approved last year and Biden signed into law as a way to go after tax cheats. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says doing that would end up costing the federal government a net $12 billion because of lost revenue from tax collections.
Republicans scoffed at that assessment, but the independent budget office is historically seen as a trusted referee.
As the floor debate got underway Thursday, Democrats pleaded for Republicans to restore the humanitarian aid Biden requested.
“Republicans are leveraging the excruciating pain of an international crisis to help rich people who cheat on their taxes and big corporations who regularly doge their taxes,” said Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee.
“The Republicans say they are friends to Israel. If I was Israel. I would un-friend them.”
In the Democratic-controlled Senate, Schumer made clear that the House bill would be rejected.
“The Senate will not take up the House GOP’s deeply flawed proposal, and instead we’ll work on our own bipartisan emergency aid package” that includes money for Israel and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian assistance for Gaza and efforts to confront China.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is balancing the need to support his GOP allies in the House, while also fighting to keep the aid package more in line with Biden’s broader request, believing all the issues are linked and demand US attention.
McConnell said the aid for Ukraine was “not charity,” but was necessary to bolster a Western ally against Russia.