House Republicans pass $14.3bn Israel funding bill

Measure is unlikely to become law, with President Joe Biden threatening to veto it in favour of his proposed $106 billion package

The bill was approved in a 226 to 196 vote, largely along party lines. AFP
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The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday passed a $14.3 billion Israel aid bill, moving forward legislation that is all but certain to fail in the Democrat-majority Senate due to claims it puts “conditions” on aid to the US ally.

The bill was approved in a 226 to 196 vote, largely along party lines.

Pushed by newly minted right-wing House Speaker Mike Johnson, the bill serves as a counter to President Joe Biden's broader $106 billion package that includes funding for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine as well as humanitarian aid.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the Democratic-controlled Senate chamber, and Mr Biden has vowed to veto it should it come to his desk for signing into law.

The Republican measure includes $4 billion for procurement of Israel's Iron Dome and David's Sling defence systems to counter short-range rocket threats as well as some transfers of equipment from US stocks.

The measure would cut Internal Revenue Service funding as a means of offsetting the cost of the increased military aid to Israel.

It is the first major legislative action of Mr Johnson's speakership.

Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who had first won his party's endorsement for speakership in the leadership chaos last month, said on the House floor that the Republican bill gives Israel “the tools they need to make sure they can defend themselves” and “confronting our nations debt”.

But experts at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have argued the Republican plan to take $14.3 billion away from the IRS will expand the national debt by tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Congressman Dan Goldman, who was in Israel at the time of the October 7 Hamas attack that sparked the current regional chaos, emotionally described how his children were “still traumatised” from the fear of that day.

“To my Republican colleagues, please spare me the lectures about what is best for Israel … today for the first time ever, Republicans have put conditions on emergency aid to Israel in a purely political ploy designed to divide us,” Mr Goldman said.

Leading House Democrats issued a joint statement on Thursday calling the Republican supplemental a “partisan” move that “fails to meet the urgency of this moment or confront the numerous other challenges facing the United States”.

“The Israel-only supplemental would create a dangerous precedent by demanding poison pill riders in return for meeting our national security needs,” read the statement, signed by ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee Adam Smith and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee Jim Himes.

“Republicans must not waste any more time playing politics with our national security interests and the needs of allies and partners. The survival of the state of Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan are at stake.”

The Biden package requests $14.3 billion for Israel, $61.4 billion to support Ukraine, $9.1 billion for humanitarian efforts in Gaza and elsewhere, and $7.4 billion for the Indo-Pacific.

The White House has also requested about $14 billion to protect the US border. That money would be used to boost the number of border agents, install new inspection machines to detect fentanyl and increase staffing for processing asylum cases.

Mr Biden's administration has maintained its unequivocal backing of Israel's defence since the deadly Hamas assault three weeks ago killed about 1,400 people.

The Israeli military has killed more than 9,000 Palestinians in its siege of Gaza, which has included a blockade on fuel as well as water and electricity cuts.

Updated: November 02, 2023, 10:07 PM