Wednesday, February 7, 2024

US Lawmakers Reject $17.6B Israel Aid Bill


US Lawmakers Reject Standalone Israel Aid Bill in Favor of Larger Package

US lawmakers have voted to reject a standalone Israel aid bill that was seen by critics as a cynical attempt to undermine a cross-party border security and foreign assistance package. The rejected bill would have provided $17.6 billion in military aid for Israel, which has been strongly supported by lawmakers from both parties. However, the bill faced opposition from Democrats and some Republicans who believed it was an attempt to derail the larger package that includes funding for war-torn Ukraine.

The bipartisan bill, released by the Democratic-led Senate, pairs billions of dollars for Israel and Ukraine with some of the strictest immigration curbs in decades. However, support for this $118 billion package has dwindled, with former President Donald Trump pressuring Republicans to avoid giving President Joe Biden a legislative victory ahead of the November elections.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson made it clear that the border and foreign aid bill would be “dead on arrival” if it reached the lower chamber of Congress. This stance was supported by 167 Democrats who voted against the standalone Israel bill after Biden threatened to veto it. The Democrats were angered by the bill’s apparent aim to undermine the larger package, which was the result of months of negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators.

The standalone bill also faced opposition from 13 Republicans who wanted budgetary offsets for any new spending proposals. Johnson had previously shepherded a bill through the House that would have provided $14.3 billion to Israel but included steep cuts to the Internal Revenue Service, which Biden opposed. The ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus criticized Johnson for “surrendering” to pressure for an even larger package without offsetting cuts.

Biden’s Office of Management and Budget argued that the Republican “ploy” would undermine efforts to secure the US border and support Ukraine against Russian aggression. It also claimed that the standalone bill would deny humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict. However, Johnson countered these claims, stating that it was “outrageous and shameful” for Biden to suggest vetoing support for Israel “in their hour of greatest need.”

House Democratic leaders labeled the standalone bill a “nakedly obvious and cynical attempt” to undermine the larger package. The larger package includes $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, $20 billion for US border security, and ties the Israel aid to these provisions. However, the larger package is currently deadlocked in Congress.

House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries criticized the standalone bill in a letter to colleagues, stating that it was not being offered in good faith. He accused House Republicans of introducing the bill at the 11th hour without notice or consultation.

In conclusion, US lawmakers have rejected a standalone Israel aid bill in favor of a larger package that includes funding for Ukraine and border security. The rejected bill faced opposition from both Democrats and Republicans who believed it was an attempt to undermine the larger package. The decision highlights the ongoing political tensions surrounding foreign aid and immigration policies in the United States.

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