Congress faces fierce battle over Israel, Ukraine aid
The Republican Party is divided over the best way to proceed with military aid to Israel. This has led to a heated debate in Congress next month.
Both chambers acted quickly to avoid a shutdown of the government last week, but left the fate of the assistance provided for two war-torn nations in the balance.
The decision highlighted the GOP’s divisions on the role of America in the world and raised questions as to how or if lawmakers would be able to get emergency funding through before the end of the year.
House Republicans approved $14.3 billion of Israel aid in the first week of this month. The newly-installed Speaker Mike Johnson (R.La. The new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson (R-La. ), has promised to support separate legislation that combines Ukraine assistance with tighter border security measures.
The Republicans’ Israel Bill included cuts to IRS funding, which was a no-go with Democrats in Senate. The idea of increasing funding for Ukraine is becoming increasingly unpopular among the House GOP conference. Johnson now faces the dilemma of whether or not he will bring the bill to the Senate floor.
Also, there are no deadlines for either the Ukraine or Israel aid. The must-pass package, which would have been a vehicle to pass these provisions in an average year — the Government Funding Bill — has already passed and will not need to be revisited until late January.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding how Congress will act after returning from its long Thanksgiving holiday. Party leaders will need to decide how the aid bill should be structured, where it will come from, and what it will include.
Many lawmakers have said that these details remain unresolved as they leave Washington for recess.
Adam Smith, senior Democrat of the Armed Services Committee (Washington), said: “I don’t think it will move in a simple manner.” “It’s a game of all hands.”
Biden kicked off the debate by proposing a $105 billion package of additional spending, which included emergency assistance to both Ukraine and Israel. This was largely in form of military amenities. It also included funding for humanitarian aid for Palestinians civilians in Gaza.
Last week, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D.Y.) promised that the upper chamber would “immediately move” to address these issues. The debate has been slowed down by disagreements among Senate negotiators on the border security issue, which is crucial to winning GOP support for both chambers.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said: “We don’t have a clue how it will happen.” “We have to go back and do lots of work.”
In the middle of the confusion, both political parties have laid out a number of competing paths that the debate could take.
The House is not expected to revisit this issue without a request, as it has already passed a bill on Israel’s aid. Some top Republicans expect Johnson to keep his promise to combine Ukraine funding and border security legislation, even if it’s just to use as a bargaining tool with Democrats at the White House and Senate.
Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said: “I believe we will have a Ukraine border bill.” “And then the Senate, after Thanksgiving, will probably pass their Ukraine-Israel-border-Taiwan bill. The Speaker will have to decide what to do with that bill.
McCaul said that the House should combine all of the legislation into one package. However, he acknowledged that there are divisions in the GOP conference over Ukraine which could force Republican leaders to take a piecemeal strategy.
McCaul stated, “I believe all threats are linked together. But I understand that the Speaker has to manage our conference and many people do not want them all tied together.”
Some Republicans said the House would hold off on approving $300 million in military aid to Ukraine until the Senate acted, even if it was just to diffuse tensions among the GOP conference. The House Republicans voted against approving $300 million of military aid for Ukraine in September. This was more than half the GOP conference. It sent a message to the party leaders to show that they have soured on this issue.
“I think we’re both going to come out of the Senate. We just have to figure out a way to bring them to the floor,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., a leader in the Problem Solvers Caucus. The question is, will it be brought to the floor? You-know-who is going to object.
Other lawmakers stated that while the passage of a Senate bill would encourage the House to take action, they had no faith in the upper chamber’s ability to efficiently move the aid provisions. They suggest that House leaders take aggressive steps to smooth out any sticking points behind the scenes and to make the passage of the bill easier.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said that the Senate should deliver on its promise. “But I get the impression that we Democrats need to make sure our ducks are in order, perhaps a four-corner conversation.” We have to take steps that do not rely on the Senate.
Smith, the ranking member for Armed Services, also agreed. He said that his “lack faith in the Senate’s ability to accomplish anything” meant that House leaders — Johnson, and Minority leader Hakeem Jeffreys (D-N.Y.), should continue their discussions; top appropriators from both chambers must work behind the scenes, and the White House must engage leaders of both sides at all levels.
Smith stated that “we’re not going to just sit back and say, ‘Well I guess the Senate will eventually send us something’.”
Jeffries is meanwhile stressing that an aid package must be passed by January.
Jeffries told reporters at the Capitol that there was no way we could leave Congress without funding Ukraine, Israel, humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in danger, and meeting other national security needs for the American people.
He’s also warned GOP leaders that including conservative wish-list items — such as IRS cuts — will immediately disintegrate Democratic support and sink underlying aid legislation.
He said that “nothing that happens in the House of Representatives on a partisan basis will have any chance of becoming law.”
Last week, the vote on funding the government was held.