House approves $14.5 billion in aid for Israel, while Biden vows to veto GOP approach

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., center, joined by, from left, Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R - La., talks to reporters ahead of the debate and vote on additional aid to Israel, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(J Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

House approves $14.5 billion in aid for Israel, while Biden vows to veto GOP approach



November 2, 2023

The House of Representatives approved $14.5 billion in military aid to Israel on Thursday, a strong American response to the war with Hamas, but also a partisan approach by new Speaker Mike Johnson that poses a direct challenge to Democrats and President Biden .

In a departure from norms, the Republican package required that the emergency aid be offset by cuts in government spending elsewhere. That approach established the new Republican Party’s conservative leadership in the House of Representatives, but also turned what would typically be a bipartisan vote into a divisive one between Democrats and Republicans. Biden has said he would veto the bill, which passed largely along party lines.

Johnson (R-La.) said the Republican package would provide Israel with the help it needs to defend itself, free hostages held by Hamas and eradicate the militant Palestinian group, accomplishing all this “while we also work to ensure responsible spending and reduce spending.” size of the federal government.

Democrats said this approach would only delay aid to Israel. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has warned that the stunningly frivolous bill has no chance in the Senate.

The first substantive legislative effort in Congress to support Israel in the war falls far short of Biden’s request for nearly $106 billion, which would also support Ukraine in the fight against Russia, along with U.S. efforts to counter China and to address security at the border with Mexico.

It is also Johnson’s first major test as speaker of the House of Representatives, as the Republican majority tries to return to work after the month of unrest since the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) as speaker. Johnson has said he will focus on U.S. border security in addition to aid to Ukraine, preferring to address Biden’s requests separately as Republican lawmakers increasingly oppose aid to Kiev.

The White House veto warning said Johnson’s approach does not 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 requested, the White House said the Republican plan’s failure to include humanitarian aid to Gaza is a serious mistake as the crisis deepens.

Biden on Wednesday called for a pause in the war to allow relief efforts.

“This bill would break with the normal, bipartisan approach to providing emergency national security assistance,” the White House wrote in its policy statement on the legislation. It said the Republican Party’s stance would have “devastating consequences for our security and alliances for years to come.”

Before Thursday’s vote, it was unclear how many Democrats would join Republicans. The White House had appealed directly to lawmakers, particularly Jewish Democrats, encouraging them to reject the bill.

White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, adviser to the president Steve Ricchetti and other senior White House staffers have engaged House Democrats, said a person familiar with the situation who was granted anonymity to discuss it .

But the vote was difficult for some lawmakers who want to support Israel and may struggle to explain the trade-off to their constituents, especially as the large AIPAC lobby and other groups encouraged passage.

To pay for the bill, Republicans in the House of Representatives added provisions that would cut billions from the IRS, which Democrats passed last year and Biden signed into law as a way to crack down on tax fraud. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says this would ultimately cost the federal government $12 billion in lost revenue from tax collections.

Republicans scoff at that assessment, but the independent budget office has historically been seen as a trusted arbiter.

As the floor debate got underway, Democrats advocated for Republicans to restore the humanitarian aid Biden had requested and described the politicization of the usually bipartisan support for Israel.

Republicans are using the agony of an international crisis to help wealthy people who cheat on their taxes and big corporations that regularly dodge their taxes, said Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee.

Representative Daniel Goldman of New York described hiding in a stairwell with his wife and children during a visit to Israel as rockets were fired in what he called the most horrific attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, Goldman said he opposed the Republican-led bill as a shameful attempt to turn the situation in Israel and the Jewish people into a political weapon.

Support for Israel can be a political game for my colleagues across the aisle,” the Democrat said. “But this is personal for us Jews and it is existential for the only Jewish nation in the world that is a safe haven for Israel. the rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world.

Republicans have attacked Democrats who raise questions about Israeli war tactics as anti-Semitic. The House tried to censure the only Palestinian American lawmaker in Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), over comments she made. The censorship measure failed.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said he was “so grateful that there is no humanitarian aid,” which he argued could end up in the hands of Hamas.

In the Democratic-controlled Senate, Schumer made it clear that the House bill would be rejected.

The Senate will not take up the Republican Party’s deeply flawed proposal, and instead we will work on our own bipartisan relief package, which includes money for Israel and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid for Gaza and efforts to confront China.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is balancing the need to support his Republican allies in the House of Representatives while also fighting to keep the relief package more in line with Biden’s broader request, believing that all issues are interrelated and require American attention.

McConnell said the aid to Ukraine was not charity but was necessary to strengthen a Western ally against Russia.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on a Republican-led resolution targeting college campus activism related to the war between Israel and Hamas. The non-binding resolution would condemn support for Hamas, Hezbollah and terrorist organizations at higher education institutions.

Associated Press writers Stephen Groves, Farnoush Amiri, Mary Clare Jalonick and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.


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