US House passes Israel-only aid bill, despite WH, Senate objections

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a Republican plan to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel and cut funding of the Internal Revenue Service, despite Democrats’ insistence it has no future in the Senate and the White House’s promise of a veto.

The measure passed 226 to 196, largely along party lines, a shift from typical strongly bipartisan congressional support for providing aid to Israel. Twelve Democrats voted with 214 Republicans for the bill, and two Republicans joined 194 Democrats in objecting.

The bill’s introduction, as lawmakers rushed to respond to the attack on Israel by Iran-backed Hamas militants, was the first major legislative action under new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson.

But because it combined aid for Israel with a cut to the Internal Revenue Service and left out aid for Ukraine, President Joe Biden promised a veto and Senator Chuck Schumer, majority leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate, said he would not bring it up for a vote.

Biden has asked Congress to approve a broader $106 billion emergency spending package including funding for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid. Schumer said the Senate would consider a bipartisan bill addressing the broader priorities.

Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) addresses the House of Representatives after he was elected to be the new Speaker at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 25, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/Nathan Howard)

The dispute between the two chambers could mean it will be weeks before Congress approves any emergency spending plan.

Israel already receives $3.8 billion per year in US military assistance under a 10-year plan that began in 2016.

“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,” said Republican Representative Kay Granger, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, during debate on the legislation.

Republicans have a 221-212 majority in the House, but Biden’s fellow Democrats control the Senate 51-49. To become law, the bill would have to pass both the House and Senate and be signed by Biden.

Poison pill?

House Republican leaders combined the cost of the aid to Israel with cutting some funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that Democrats included in Biden’s signature 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, prompting Democrats to accuse them of using Israel’s crisis to score political points.

Republicans, who objected to the increased IRS funding from the beginning, said cutting the agency’s budget was essential to offset the cost of the military aid to Israel, whose tanks and troops took on Hamas on the outskirts of Gaza City on Thursday.

Democrats objected to cutting money for the IRS, calling it a politically motivated “poison pill” that will increase the US budget deficit by cutting back on tax collection. They also said it was essential to continue to support Ukraine as it fights against a Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday said the IRS cuts and Israel aid in the House bill would add nearly $30 billion to the US budget deficit, currently estimated at $1.7 trillion.

Representative Rosa DeLauro, ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, accused Republicans of delaying aid by backing a partisan bill that does not include Ukraine or humanitarian aid for civilians. “This bill abandons Ukraine. We will not abandon Israel and we will not abandon Ukraine. But their fortunes are linked,” she said.

While Democrats and many Republicans still strongly support Ukraine, a smaller but vocal group of Republicans question sending more money to the government in Kyiv at a time of steep budget deficits.

Johnson, who voted against Ukraine aid repeatedly before he became speaker last month, plans to introduce a bill combining assistance for Ukraine with money to increase security at the US border with Mexico.

After the vote, Johnson urged the Senate and White House to quickly approve the bill. “The Senate and White House cannot let this moment pass, and I urge them to act swiftly and pass this bill as the House did today,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Congress has approved $113 billion for Ukraine since the invasion began.





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