The New Republican House Speaker, Mike Johnson, led the House in passing a robust military aid package for Israel, totaling nearly $14.5 billion on Thursday. This move, amid the conflict with Hamas, is a direct challenge to Joe Biden, who insists on tying financial aid to Ukraine to any packages relating to Israel.
Johnson’s approach mandates corresponding spending cuts to balance the emergency aid, a stance underscoring the new GOP leadership's fiscal conservatism but also creating a split between Democrats and Republicans. President Joe Biden has signaled a veto, with the bill narrowly passing in a largely party-line vote of 226-196, seeing a small fraction of Democrats aligning with the majority of Republicans.
Speaker Johnson, R-La., emphasizes that this package will enable Israel to defend itself, secure the release of hostages from Hamas, and target the group, while also addressing federal spending. Democrats, however, argue this tactic will delay crucial support for Israel. Senate Majority Leader Schumer has dismissed the bill as unlikely to succeed in the Senate, the Associated Press reported.
The legislation marks the first major congressional initiative in support of Israel amidst the current conflict and is notably less than Biden’s expansive $106 billion request intended also for Ukraine and other strategic interests.
This presents a pivotal challenge for Johnson, who has ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the Speaker role and aims to next prioritize aid for Ukraine and U.S. border security, diverging from Biden’s consolidated request.
The White House criticizes Johnson’s method for lacking immediacy and setting a troubling precedent by insisting on funding offsets, stating that it “fails to meet the urgency of the moment.”
The administration also points out that the GOP's exclusion of humanitarian aid for Gaza from the bill is a critical oversight as the region's crisis intensifies. Biden has been insistent on providing funds to the Hamas-run government of Gaza, ostensibly for humanitarian purposes.
Before the vote, the number of Democrat defectors was uncertain, with the White House actively lobbying, particularly targeting Jewish Democrats, to reject the bill. Despite these efforts, the decision remained challenging for some Democrats who support Israel but were wary of the proposed trade-offs, particularly in light of lobbying from influential groups like AIPAC.
To finance the package, Republicans proposed slashing IRS funding, which Democrats had increased to enhance tax enforcement. The Congressional Budget Office contends that these cuts would lead to a net loss in government revenue, exacerbating the financial impact of the aid package.
The bill aims to bolster Israel’s defense capabilities, including the Iron Dome missile system, and ensures the safety of U.S. citizens. Despite its passage in the House, it faces opposition in the Senate, where Schumer insists on a bipartisan approach inclusive of aid for Israel, Ukraine, and humanitarian support for Gaza.
Amidst these proceedings, the House also addressed campus activism related to the Israel-Hamas conflict, condemning support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and terrorist organizations within higher education through a nonbinding resolution.