The House of Representatives passed a controversial $17.6 billion aid package for Israel on Tuesday, defying a White House veto threat and setting up a showdown with the Senate over billions in assistance for Ukraine.
Background Lead Up
Tensions have been building for weeks between the new Republican House majority led by Speaker Mike Johnson and the Biden administration over aid priorities amid competing crises. While Johnson pushed for a standalone bill funding Israel’s Iron Dome and other defense needs, the White House insisted any new aid must also include money for Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia.
A $47 billion bipartisan compromise package including aid for both Israel and Ukraine as well as disaster relief funding passed the Senate last month. But Johnson rejected calls to take up the Senate bill, arguing Israel’s security needs were too urgent.
“Israel faces immediate threats that require our support,” Johnson said when announcing the House would draft its own Israel-only aid legislation. “We cannot wait any longer.”
The White House quickly issued a veto threat, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calling it a “cynical political maneuver meant to pit ally against ally.”
Bill Passage and Reaction
The partisan $17.6 billion House bill provides emergency funding for Israel to replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system and purchase additional interceptors like the Arrow ballistic missile program. It designates the assistance as emergency spending, bypassing caps on foreign aid.
The final 220-208 vote fell largely along party lines. Only two Democrats crossed over to support the measure after an effort to amend the bill to include Ukraine aid failed.
President Biden issued a swift statement reiterating his veto threat:
“This partisan bill cynically leaves behind Ukraine and other allies while supporting only Israel. I cannot sign legislation that signals America cares more about one ally over another.”
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will not take up the House version, calling it “divisive” and “inexcusable.”
“The Senate will move forward with our bipartisan emergency aid package supporting both Israel and Ukraine,” Schumer pledged. “I urge Speaker Johnson to join us in this vital effort.”
Pro-Israel groups mostly welcomed the House vote while urging leaders to ultimately come together on a compromise.
“We recognize the need to provide for both Israel and Ukraine,” said American Israel Public Affairs Committee spokesperson Marshall Wittmann. “We hope Congressional leaders can find common ground on this important issue.”
What Happens Next
With President Biden threatening a veto, the House bill’s future remains unclear. Speaker Johnson could try to force the issue by refusing to pass other must-sign legislation without concessions on Israel aid. But the White House seems unlikely to back down from its stance.
Some possible next steps include:
- The House passing an updated aid package including support for both Israel and Ukraine
- The Senate taking up its bipartisan compromise bill again to pressure House movement
- Leaders negotiating a new compromise behind closed doors
But Johnson risks backlash from more moderate members if he continues holding firm amidst the gridlock. Several Republicans have already voiced concerns over the decision to abandon Ukraine, a key ally also battling Russian aggression.
“We should not be forcing a choice between supporting Israel and Ukraine,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
Congress faces a tight timeline to act, with Israel warning stockpiles of interceptors are running low. Yet Johnson shows no signs of backing down on his demands, potentially setting up an extended game of chicken with the White House and other Congressional leaders in the critical weeks ahead.
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) – The new House Speaker who pushed the standalone Israel aid package and shows no signs of backing down on his demands despite veto threats. Faces pressure from both sides within his caucus.
President Joe Biden – Reiterated his pledge to veto any legislation focused only on Israel, not a comprehensive aid package also assisting Ukraine. Battling Johnson in increasingly personal terms.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) – Leading the bipartisan $47 billion Senate compromise bill including assistance for both Israel and Ukraine. Called the House’s Israel-only measure “inexcusable” and urged Johnson to compromise.
Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) – Slammed the GOP bill as a “political stunt” that abandoned Ukraine. Tried unsuccessfully to amend the legislation to include Ukraine aid.
Pro-Israel Groups – Welcomed the House vote but stopped short of fully endorsing the controversial legislation. Urged leaders to ultimately reach an agreement adequately supporting Israel.
This high-stakes standoff will continue playing out in the critical days and weeks ahead. With positions hardening on both sides, a prolonged impasse could undermine aid to key allies amid global crises.
Table summarizing key differences between House and Senate aid bills:
|House Standalone Package
|Senate Compromise Bill
|$25 billion (disaster relief, border security)
The outcome of this partisan clash carries high stakes. Leaders must decide whether to hold firm on demands or seek compromise amid urgent crises facing valued allies. The pressure is on to find common ground.
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