WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives approved more than $14 billion in aid to Israel Thursday afternoon, creating the first major legislative clash between House Speaker Mike Johnson and the Senate and White House.
The bill, titled “Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act,” was approved by the lower house by a vote of 226 to 196, with most Republicans voting for the legislation and most Democrats voting against. Two Republicans defected and voted against the bill while twelve Democrats voted for it.
Aid to Israel, a close U.S. ally, which is waging a war against Hamas militants, has garnered broad bipartisan support, but Johnson’s proposal for self-funding of Israel drew considerable backlash from the share of the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House.
President Joe Biden has asked Congress to pass a sweeping national security funding bill that includes money for Ukrainian and U.S. border security. Johnson’s bill includes only aid to Israel — a clear opening salvo from the newly crowned president as he seeks conservative policy victories with a narrow Republican Party majority.
To pay for Israel’s aid, the bill includes a provision removing additional funding for the Internal Revenue Service that was originally allocated by the Inflation Reduction Act, legislation championed by Biden and Democratic Democrats. Congress.
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Johnson argued that while the United States must step up aid to Israel, “we must also keep our house in order.” House Republicans, Johnson said at his first formal news conference Thursday morning, must return to “fiscal responsibility” and address the national debt.
Johnson also argued that a bill funding a self-sustaining Israel, without other foreign aid provisions for U.S. allies, would make more sense because of the urgency of Israel’s war with Israel. Hamas, which broke out in early October.
Senate leaders, however, have shown no appetite for a standalone bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., ridiculed Johnson’s bill as a “deeply flawed proposal.” in an article on X, formerly Twitter.
Instead, Schumer promised the Senate would craft a bipartisan foreign aid bill that appears to resemble Biden’s broad supplemental request. The Senate bill “will include funding for aid to Israel, Ukraine, humanitarian aid, including Gaza, and competition with the Chinese government.”
Some Democrats voted for Johnson’s proposal, but made clear they reluctantly supported it.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, Democrat of Florida, represents one of the most Jewish districts in the country. He was one of twelve Democrats who voted for the bill because he felt Israel needed bipartisan support after the October 7 attack, but he said it was a political decision “disgusting” to force Democrats to choose between funding Israel or the IRS.
“Playing politics with Israel when it needs it most, our number one ally, the greatest attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust – that’s what Mike Johnson wanted to be,” Moskowitz said. “It’s just disappointing for a guy who says he lives by the Bible, but wants to cause trouble in the Holy Land. »
Johnson hasn’t found antagonists just among Democrats, either — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been adamant that Congress should pass sweeping legislation on the foreign aid.
“We don’t have the luxury of closing our doors and hoping that evil will leave us alone,” McConnell said Thursday morning in a speech on the Senate floor, appearing to launch a subtle attack on Johnson and other Republicans for defending an independent bill on Israel. . “America’s allies are waking up to this fact. This is not the time for the leader of the free world to go to sleep.”
The White House has issued a veto threat if the House bill reaches its desk.
John Kirby, the coordinator of strategic communications at the National Security Council, said Thursday that Biden wants to see his entire funding request honored. “We wouldn’t have submitted it this way if we didn’t think they weren’t all important and needed to be addressed together. »
“The president would veto a bill reserved for Israel. I think we made that clear,” Kirby said.
Kirby also criticized Johnson’s legislation for omitting humanitarian aid that would help provide food, water and medical assistance to the people of Gaza as Israel retaliates against Hamas. “This must be a failure. This is nothing more than partisan politics,” he said.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., one of two GOP members who voted against the aid plan, said he was concerned about the national debt. Massie told USA TODAY after the vote that “we can’t afford to have the money” needed to finance Israel, pointing to a debt clock pin he wears in his lapel that reads the national debt.
Democratic resistance will cause a stalemate with no clear solution calling into question the fate of Israeli aid.
House Democrats seem happy to cave in to the Senate and pass whatever legislation the upper chamber has to propose. Rep. Brad Schneider, Democrat of Illinois, said in a statement before the House vote on the Israel bill that he would spearhead efforts to pass the Senate bill through the House. lower room.
“I cannot support the woefully flawed, weak and dangerous bill that President Johnson and the Republicans introduced today,” Schneider said. “The Senate will pass a strong, bipartisan aid package. I will lead the charge to pass this package in the House as soon as humanly possible.
Johnson, however, indicated that he would not back down from the next fight. The Louisiana Republican said he has already met with the president, several cabinet officials and senators and made clear that “we are going to do this responsibly.”
He defended the compensation in Israel’s bill canceling the IRS money, even though Schumer called it a “poison pill.” Johnson, during the press conference, appeared confident in his ability to win.
“We’re trying to get back to the principle of fiscal responsibility here,” Johnson said. “We’re going to stand up for this and I’m going to continue to deliver this message to the American people. And you know what? I suspect they are with us on that.
Appearing on Fox Business ahead of the vote, he rejected pressures to present Biden’s request in full, saying the president’s other demands “deserve more sober consideration” and argued for separate debates and discussions.
“So we’re probably going to deal with the Ukraine and the border issue together (on the House side),” he said. “We are trying to find consensus here. We have not yet reached a complete consensus on Ukraine. »
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