February 24, 2024

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The House of Representatives proposes a bill to aid Israel, leading to a showdown with the Senate

House Republicans plan to vote on a bill next week that would give billions of dollars in military aid to Israel and US forces in the region, a measure that is set to culminate with a Senate proposal expected to combine funding for border security with aid. Foreign democracies.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) announced in a letter to the Republican Conference on Saturday that the House will send $17.6 billion to bolster Israeli military defense systems, personnel and American citizens in the region as a result of ongoing conflicts. If the House approves the bill by midweek, it will be the second bill sent to the Senate in two months. But unlike the previous version, it includes an additional $3.3 billion for Israel and does not include the controversial IRS compensation that House Republicans championed and the Democratic Senate deemed unprincipled.

“The Senate will no longer have excuses, no matter how misguided, against the rapid passage of this important support for our ally,” Johnson wrote in his letter.

The move comes as the Senate is expected to unveil and vote on a supplemental package this weekend that would fund new measures to control the historic influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border, while meeting President Biden's request for $106 billion in aid to Ukraine. And Israel too. and the Indo-Pacific region. The surprise announcement by House Republicans to send a standalone bill to fund Israel to the Senate sets up two competing votes in the two chambers, which remain far apart on how to fund border security and Ukraine in a divided government.

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Notably, the proposal misses any funding for Ukraine, which has faced a significant decline in support from the GOP majority in the House of Representatives. The measure also does not include a border security proposal, as House Republicans have insisted that the Senate accept the bill that passed last year.

A bipartisan group of negotiators in the Senate has been working for months to find a compromise on border security after House Republicans telegraphed that they would not support Biden's request for a supplemental package that helps foreign allies unless it includes major changes to the border. The negotiations have often ebbed and flowed with Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) working to overcome partisan hurdles in how to address changes to the U.S. asylum and refugee system. Parole system.

Adding urgency to the problem, Biden pledged last month to use emergency powers to “close the border when it becomes overcrowded” if Congress passes his bipartisan immigration plan, placing the onus largely on the House GOP majority to accept the Senate deal.

Johnson told colleagues on Saturday that in the two months it took senators to reach a deal — which has yet to be revealed — the world saw an attack on American forces, retaliatory strikes against Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq, as well as an attack on American forces. The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas was used as justification for prioritizing sending foreign aid to the region immediately, leaving the door open as to whether a supplementary package would be considered later.

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“While the Senate appears poised to finally release the text of the supplemental package after months of negotiations behind closed doors, their leadership recognizes that by failing to engage the House in their negotiations, they have eliminated the ability to quickly consider any legislation.” Johnson said. “Given the Senate’s failure to move appropriate legislation in a timely manner, and the parlous circumstances Israel currently faces, the House will continue to lead.”

The House of Representatives bill will provide $9.7 billion to renew Israel's various missile and defense systems. It will allow the country to quickly acquire advanced weapons systems and other defense services through the Foreign Military Financing Program and will boost the production of artillery munitions.

Another $7.7 billion will be allocated to replenish US defense stocks sent to Israel and military operations in the region in response to the October 7 attack. Another $200 million will be used to protect American personnel and help evacuate American citizens if necessary.

Former President Donald Trump also directed Republicans to vote against any border security measure until after the 2024 presidential election, sparking stronger support against any Senate proposal. Johnson indicated his opposition to a bill in the Senate that contains fewer measures than the border security bill introduced by House Republicans, known as HR 2, but did not say whether he would not put that proposal on the table given that the text has not passed. after. Issued by Senate negotiators.

The White House described the proposal as a “cynical political maneuver.”

“We strongly oppose this stunt that does nothing to secure the border, does nothing to help the people of Ukraine defend themselves against Putin’s aggression, and deprives Palestinian civilians of humanitarian assistance,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Saturday. a night.

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By forcing the Senate to approve the bill without amendments, Johnson put the burden on Democrats, including in the House, to vote against a measure that many who want to help Israel would likely support. It also puts House Republicans in a stronger position to send their own messages before senators censure them for inaction.

However, what complicates matters for Johnson is how the far-right wing of his conference will react. They celebrated Johnson's inaugural bill that sent aid to Israel and included IRS cuts, which Republicans have long called for. But the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives remained opposed to passing funding bills that do not include cuts and Johnson's latest maneuver of relying on Democrats to send bills to the Senate given the Republicans' narrow three-seat majority.

Furthermore, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) threatened to use a motion that led to the removal of former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as Speaker of the House if Johnson brought a Ukraine aid bill to the House floor. While Representative Chip Roy (R-Texas) proposed activating the measure if Johnson puts border security legislation to a vote.

Johnson has repeatedly said he is “not concerned” by eviction threats, and that they do not guide his judgment on sentencing.

Tyler Pager contributed to this report.