House Speaker Mike Johnson’s $14.3bn Israel aid package under fire

New House Speaker’s opening bid for Israel aid is slammed by the White House as ‘a nonstarter’

Andrew Feinberg
Tuesday 31 October 2023 08:33 EDT
Mike Johnson says Congress will pass 'stand-alone Israel funding bill' before supporting Ukraine

The White House has shot down new House Speaker Mike Johnson’s opening offer to send US aid to Israel by cutting funds allocated in the Inflation Reduction Act to Internal Revenue Service enforcement, branding the proposal politicised and amateurish.

Last week, President Joe Biden sent a supplemental funding request to Congress which pairs additional defence aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and funds for stepped-up border enforcement in the US, totalling approximately $106bn.

The funds would provide Israel with needed support as its defence forces continue a ground offensive in Gaza against Hamas, and bolster Ukraine’s efforts to repel an invading Russian army.

The president has cast both countries’ efforts as worthy of US support, citing both wars as separate fronts in a larger battle between democracy and autocracy.

Yet, even though Mr Johnson had expressed at least tepid support for allowing funding for Ukraine to get an up-or-down vote on the House floor, he previously suggested that he would not allow a combined funding bill to reach the lower chamber for a vote.

This move comes even though such legislation is likely to easily garner a majority of votes in the House and is expected to pass the Senate by a wide bipartisan margin.

Instead, his proposal – unveiled on Monday – involves providing $14.3bn in aid to Israel – with Ukraine funding not included.

The proposal offsets the new funding for Israeli defence by cutting funds already allocated for increased tax enforcement and other IRS operations.

Defunding the branch of US law enforcement that enforces tax laws has long been a priority of Republicans, even as they frequently complain that the US does not take in enough tax revenue to justify supporting many government programmes.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to the proposal saying that it is “politicising our national security” and calling it “a nonstarter”.

Mike Johnson unveiled the proposal on Monday

“Demanding offsets for meeting core national security needs of the United States – like supporting Israel and defending Ukraine from atrocities and Russian imperialism – would be a break with the normal, bipartisan process and could have devastating implications for our safety and alliances in the years ahead,” she said.

Ms Jean-Pierre also pointed out that there is “strong bipartisan agreement” for funding humanitarian aid to Gaza, Israeli defence, Ukraine’s fight against Russia and investing in border security.

She added that the GOP plan amounts to “threatening to undermine American national security unless House Republicans can help the wealthy and big corporations cheat on their taxes”.

“Playing political games that threaten the source of funding for Israel’s self-defense—now and into the future—would set an unacceptable precedent that calls our commitment to one of our closest allies into question. We cannot afford to jeopardize that commitment as Israel defends itself from the evil unleashed by Hamas,” she said.

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