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Senate passes foreign aid supplemental package with billions for Israel

“History settles every account. And today, on the value of American leadership and strength, history will record that the Senate did not blink,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks during a House Judiciary Committee field hearing on New York City violent crimes, at the Javits Federal Building in New York City on April 17, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks during a House Judiciary Committee field hearing on New York City violent crimes, at the Javits Federal Building in New York City on April 17, 2023. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

The U.S. Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid package early on Tuesday morning that includes $14.1 billion for Israel, $60.1 billion for Ukraine and $9.1 billion in humanitarian aid for conflict zones, including the Gaza Strip.

After an all-night debate session, the bill passed with a vote of 70-29 and split the Republican caucus in half, with a little more than half of GOP senators voting “nay.” They were joined by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who said that they were opposed to continued funding for Israel.

“This bill provides Netanyahu $10 billion more in unrestricted military aid for his horrific war against the Palestinian people,” Sanders stated ahead of the vote, referencing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “That is unconscionable.” (The prime minister is part of a war cabinet and does not make decisions single-handedly.)

U.S. President Joe Biden first proposed the foreign aid package shortly after the terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, perpetrated by the Hamas terrorist organization based in Gaza, but the bill has been in limbo over Republican demands to similarly address the migration crisis at the U.S. southern border. Earlier this month, House Republican leaders rejected a Senate compromise that included border security measures, prompting the Senate to pursue a clean foreign aid package.

Of the $14.1 billion earmarked for Israel, $10.6 billion is U.S. Defense Department funding, including $4 billion for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile-defense systems; and $1.2 billion for further development of the Iron Beam laser-defense system to counter short-range rockets. Another $3.5 billion is a U.S. State Department grant for Israel to pay for American military materiel and services.

The aid package also includes $2.4 billion to support U.S. operations in the Red Sea to defend international shipping from attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Biden welcomed the Senate vote in a statement on Tuesday. “I urge the House to move on this with urgency,” he stated. “We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

“It will provide Israel with what it needs to protect its people against Hamas terrorists,” he added. “Significantly, this agreement will provide life-saving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people, the vast majority of whom have nothing to do with Hamas.”

The bill includes a provision that prevents any of that humanitarian assistance funding from being distributed to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which Israel has accused of being compromised over links between its Gaza-based staff and Hamas. Israel has said that it has evidence that 12 UNRWA staff members participated directly in the Oct. 7 attacks, which prompted the United States and 14 other countries to suspend funding to the U.N. Palestinian aid agency.

Last week, Israeli forces also exposed a Hamas data center underneath the Gaza headquarters of UNRWA, replete with servers, electricity, a backup power station and living quarters for terrorists.

U.S. Senate Sign
A sign marks an entrance to the U.S. Senate in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Credit: Katherine Welles/Shutterstock.

‘Speaker Johnson: Bring it to the floor’

Republican opponents of the aid package speaking during hours of debate overnight focused largely on the amount of money going to Ukraine and the bill’s failure to address the migration crisis at the U.S. southern border. Some also opposed aid for the Palestinians.

“To say that we’re going to get rid of any risk of funding the same problems that were facilitated and materially advanced by UNRWA in the past just by funneling them through another U.N. agency is folly,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “To suggest that simply by funneling it through the U.N. to send aid to Gaza, we’re somehow going to prevent any situation in which we materially assist Hamas, that’s not going to happen.”

While 26 of the 49 Republican senators voted against the bill, it had the support of most of the Republican leadership, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“For three years, a policy of hesitation, short-sightedness and self-deterrence led the world to wonder whether the United States still has the resolve to face growing, coordinated threats,” McConnel stated, welcoming the Senate’s passage of the supplemental package.

“Today, we faced a clear test of that resolve,” he said. “Our adversaries want America to decide that reinforcing allies and partners is not in our interest and that investing in strategic competition is not worth it. They want us to take hard-earned credibility and light it on fire.”

“History settles every account. And today, on the value of American leadership and strength, history will record that the Senate did not blink,” he added.

Former President Donald Trump has not commented on the vote but suggested on Saturday that he was opposed to all U.S. foreign aid.

“No money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway,” he wrote, in capitalized letters. “We should never give money anymore without the hope of a payback or without ‘strings’ attached.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) indicated on Monday before the vote that the lack of border provisions in the bill meant that he would not bring it to the House floor for a vote.

“The mandate of national security supplemental legislation was to secure America’s own border before sending additional foreign aid around the world,” he wrote. “Now, in the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) challenged Johnson to bring the bill to a vote. “If Speaker Johnson brings this national security bill to the floor, it’ll pass with bipartisan support,” Schumer said. “Speaker Johnson: Bring it to the floor.”

Despite Johnson’s opposition, Republican and Democratic supporters of the legislation could file a discharge petition to force a vote on the floor. That would require the signature of 218 members of the House, a move for which some supporters of the bill called on Tuesday.

“Time to do a discharge petition! Pass the speaker so members can vote!” wrote Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.).

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