Pressure rises on Republicans to pass foreign aid deal after Iran strike on Israel

Infighting in Washington has blocked progress on a foreign aid package that includes billions for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan

US House Speaker Mike Johnson. Bloomberg
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Iran's attack on Israel at the weekend has increased the pressure on Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson to pass a long-stalled foreign aid bill that includes billions in extra funding for the US ally.

A democratic congressional aide told The National that after Saturday's attack, there “has been a substantive push on the House Republican side to Speaker Johnson to get him to put up the security package as it currently is in the Senate”.

Republican divisions have held up a bipartisan $95 billion national security package that includes aid to Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel from being taken up in the House.

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the legislation earlier this year.

Far-right hardliners in the Republican Party have threatened to remove Mr Johnson from his role as Speaker if he brings the bill to the House floor for a final vote, due to objections over US support for Kyiv and partisan battles over securing the southern border with Mexico.

“I think the people of Ukraine, the people of Taiwan and I think the people of Israel and the innocent civilians in Gaza are a little bit more important than having Speaker Johnson trying to save face,” the aide said.

House Republicans are due to meet for a closed-door conference on Iran on Monday evening.

The conservatives are deliberating over setting a date to bring the full aid package to the floor for a vote as it is, while some have suggested once again trying a new stand-alone package containing only funding for Israel.

Why is the US struggling to pass Israel funding during the war in Gaza?

Why is the US struggling to pass Israel funding during the war in Gaza?

Ari Sacher, a senior policy adviser at the US Israel Education Association, a pro-Israel group, said he is confident Saturday's events would push Republicans to get the bill over the line.

“This escapade on Saturday night cost a half a billion dollars … We're going to need the assets and the American support is critical, and America knows that,” Mr Sacher told The National.

He recently organised a trip to Israel for Republican Senator James Lankford and House representatives Randy Weber, Morgan Griffith and Brandon Williams.

“The feeling on the Republican side is … the support for Israel is visceral," Mr Sacher said.

“The question is whether or not it'll be tied to the Ukraine and how much it will be."

But the prospect of a standalone Israel aid package also seems unlikely.

The congressional aide said Senate Democrats, and some Republicans, are “united” in supporting the package as it is.

“I just don't see a scenario where we start segmenting this,” the Democrat said.

Iran's attack on Israel – in pictures

“It just is, first of all, way too challenging and complicated. Second of all, there doesn't need to be an issue. There doesn't have to be any major revisions on our end.”

In a “Dear Colleague” letter published by US outlet Punchbowl News, House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries declared that the “gravely serious events in the Middle East and Eastern Europe underscore the need for Congress immediately”.

“We must take up the bipartisan and comprehensive national security bill passed by the Senate forthwith. This is a Churchill or Chamberlain moment,” Mr Jeffries wrote.

Momentum to pass the full supplemental package comes from leadership in the House Republican caucus, too.

“What happened in Israel last night happens in Ukraine every night,” House foreign affairs committee chairman Michael McCaul told CBS on Sunday.

“We don't have time on our side here, we have to get this done.

"I need to educate my colleagues that [Iran and Russia] are all tied together.”

Updated: April 17, 2024, 1:36 PM