US House of Representatives likely to vote on aid for Israel without conditions on aid for Ukraine – The NYT

Mike Johnson. Stock photo: Getty Images
Mike Johnson. Stock photo: Getty Images

Mike Johnson, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, said on Saturday, 3 February, that the following week the House will vote on a bill that will ensure Israel obtains US$17.6 billion of aid faster, without, however, making it conditional on also passing aid for Ukraine.

Source: The New York Times

Details: Johnson’s announcement to House Republicans came as US senators were working to finalise and vote on a bipartisan national security bill that has taken months to negotiate.

"The move could further erode G.O.P. support for the emerging compromise, which was already flagging under criticism from party leaders like Mr. Johnson and former President Donald J. Trump," The NYT wrote.

Johnson said that the Senate bill will fail a House vote, claiming that the border security measures it envisions are not tough enough to contain the recent immigration boom.

Johnson said that the House will focus instead on impeaching the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas; a vote on Mayorkas’s impeachment is set to take place in the coming week.

In a letter to House Republicans on Saturday, Johnson said the House would also prioritise its own approach to helping Israel’s war effort against Hamas, regardless of what related legislation the Senate might produce, if any.

"Their leadership is aware that by failing to include the House in their negotiations, they have eliminated the ability for swift consideration of any legislation," Johnson wrote, adding that "the House will have to work its will on these issues and our priorities will need to be addressed."

The NYT reported that "senate negotiators have been working on a sweeping national security funding bill to address Republican demands that any legislation sending military aid to Ukraine also significantly improve security at the southern border with Mexico. The emerging legislation, which includes measures making it more difficult to claim asylum and increasing both detentions and deportations, would also send more military aid to Ukraine and Israel, dedicate humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza and fund efforts to counter Chinese threats to the Indo-Pacific region."

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the Senate majority leader, announced this week that the Senate would vote no later than Wednesday on whether to take up the bill, the text of which negotiators are expected to publicise no later than Sunday.

But the measure is already "facing stiff headwinds from Senate Republicans", according to NYT. Republicans think the border enforcement provisions are not tough enough, and are loath to take a "politically challenging" vote for a bill that is "all but assured to die at the G.O.P.-led House’s door".

Several Republicans in the Senate and the House have clamoured for a split approach that would address Israel’s war effort separately from Ukraine and the border. Late last year, the Democratic-led Senate rejected a Republican attempt to force a vote on an Israel aid bill that was backed by the House. Democrats objected to the way that the House Republican bill sought to pay for the funds by making cuts to the Internal Revenue Service.

In his letter Saturday, Johnson acknowledged that history.

"Democrats made clear that their primary objection to the original House bill was with its offsets," he wrote. He added that the new Israel package will ensure that "the Senate will no longer have excuses, however misguided, against swift passage of this critical support for our ally."

The new bill, which was unveiled by House appropriators, is larger than the House’s previous Israel measure, which totaled US$14.3 billion. President Biden had sought that amount for Israel as part of a larger request he made in October for supplemental funds to address various global crises, including Ukraine.

"The US$17.6 billion House measure would direct $4 billion to replenishing Israel’s missile defense systems known as Iron Dome and David’s Sling, as well as $1.2 billion to counter short-range rocket and mortar attacks. An additional $8.9 billion would go toward supplying Israel with weapons and related services, helping it produce its own and replenishing defense stock the United States has already provided; while $3.5 billion would go toward supporting U.S. military operations, embassy security and efforts to evacuate American citizens in the region," the NYT wrote.

Background:

  • During a press conference on 30 January, Mike Johnson denied that his position on the border security agreement with Mexico, which Republicans have linked to additional funding for Ukraine, was intended to help Donald Trump win the upcoming US presidential election.

  • Johnson previously said in a letter that the Senate bill on the border and aid to Ukraine, as well as other countries, will not be approved in the House of Representatives if reports of its terms are true.

  • Republican Representatives are demanding that the White House take decisive action to curb illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border.

  • Disagreement over what measures should be taken has meant that a supplemental funding package that includes US$61 billion for Ukraine has been stalled in Congress.

  • In early January, the White House said that the US has no money for further military aid for Ukraine until a new package by the US Congress is adopted.

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