House to vote on GOP's standalone Israel aid bill

Washington — The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a new standalone bill to provide billions of dollars of aid to Israel, complicating efforts in the Senate to rally support for a bipartisan national security bill that House GOP leaders oppose. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, announced the legislation that would send $17.6 billion to Israel in a letter to colleagues on Saturday, one day before the unveiling of the Senate’s broader security package. Johnson is bringing the bill to the floor using a maneuver that requires the support of two-thirds of the House to pass, a high bar given opposition from both the right and the left.

The Senate package, which resulted from months of negotiations, would overhaul U.S. border policy and includes funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia, as well as military aid for Israel and humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in Gaza. The bill came as a response to Republican demands for border security funding in exchange for more Ukraine aid. 

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks with reporters as he returns to his office at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 5, 2024.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks with reporters as he returns to his office at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 5, 2024.

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

But Johnson and other House Republican leaders quickly pronounced the bill dead on arrival in the lower chamber, while reviving a GOP effort to send emergency aid to Israel via a standalone measure. 

“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 over the weekend, adding that “the House will have to work its will on these issues and our priorities will need to be addressed.” 

House Republicans sought to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel last year that would have been paid for by cutting the same amount in funding to the IRS. The legislation never received a vote in the Senate because of Democratic opposition to the IRS cuts. 

Johnson argued that Democrats should not oppose the new bill given that it does not include the funding offsets. 

“During debate in the House and in numerous subsequent statements, Democrats made clear that their primary objection to the original House bill was with its offsets,” Johnson wrote. “The Senate will no longer have excuses, however misguided, against swift passage of this critical support for our ally.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, urged his colleagues to vote against the bill on Tuesday, calling it “a nakedly obvious and cynical attempt by MAGA extremists to undermine the possibility of a comprehensive, bipartisan funding package.”

But at least two Democrats said they’ll vote for it.

We must stand with our ally Israel, get all of the hostages home, defeat Hamas, provide crucial humanitarian aid to innocent Palestinians, and work toward an enduring peace,” Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Jared Moskowitz of Florida said in a statement Monday. 

But Johnson’s decision to remove the cuts to the IRS prompted opposition from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which accused the speaker of “surrendering to perceived pressure to move an even larger but now unpaid for Israel aid package.”

Conservatives should not be forced to choose between borrowing money to support our special friend Israel or honoring our commitment to end unpaid supplemental spending that exacerbate our nation’s unsustainable fiscal crisis and further risks our ability to respond to future crises,” the group said in a statement on Sunday. 

President Biden would veto the standalone Israel bill if it passes both chambers of Congress, the White House said Monday. 

Scott MacFarlane and Nikole Killion contributed reporting. 

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