US approves $14.3 billion aid to Israel despite Gaza massacres

US approves $14.3 billion aid to Israel despite Gaza massacres
The bill left out aid for Ukraine and was combined with a financial cut to the Internal Revenue Service.
4 min read
03 November, 2023
The bill, which passed the US House of Representatives, has come under fire from US President Joe Biden who vowed to veto its passing into legislation [Getty]

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a Republican plan to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel and cut funding of the Internal Revenue Service, despite Democrats' insistence it has no future in the Senate and the White House's promise of a veto.

The measure passed 226 to 196, largely along party lines, a shift from typical strongly bipartisan congressional support for providing aid to Israel. Twelve Democrats voted with 214 Republicans for the bill, and two Republicans joined 194 Democrats in objecting.

The bill was the first major legislative action under new pro-Israel Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson.

It comes as Israel killed over 9,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including 3,826 children, much of it using American weaponry.

Massacres have taken place across Gaza, most recently with Israel's bombing of a refugee camp.

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But because it combined aid for Israel with a cut to the Internal Revenue Service and left out aid for Ukraine, President Joe Biden promised a veto and Senator Chuck Schumer, majority leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate, said he would not bring it up for a vote.

Biden has asked Congress to approve a broader $106 billion emergency spending package including funding for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid. Schumer said the Senate would consider a bipartisan bill addressing the broader priorities.

The dispute between the two chambers could mean it will be weeks before Congress approves any emergency spending plan.

The House bill would provide billions only for Israel's military, including $4 billion for procurement of Israel's Iron Dome and David's Sling defense systems to counter short-range rocket threats, as well as some transfers of equipment from US stocks.

Israel already receives $3.8 billion per year in US military assistance under a 10-year plan that began in 2016.

"This is the first step in the process and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the bill so we can get funds to Israel as soon as possible," said Republican Representative Kay Granger, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, during debate on the legislation.

Republicans have a 221-212 majority in the House, but Biden's fellow Democrats control the Senate 51-49. To become law, the bill would have to pass both the House and Senate and be signed by Biden.

Poison Pill?

House Republican leaders combined the cost of the aid to Israel with cutting some funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that Democrats included in Biden's signature 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, prompting Democrats to accuse them of using Israel's crisis to score political points.

Republicans, who objected to the increased IRS funding from the beginning, said cutting the agency's budget was essential to offset the cost of the military aid to Israel, whose tanks and troops have besieging the now-surrounded Gaza City.

Israel's bombardment, siege and ground assault on the Gaza Strip has led to huge international outcry with home, hospitals, mosques and churches bombed.

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Democrats objected to cutting money for the IRS, calling it a politically motivated "poison pill" that will increase the US budget deficit by cutting back on tax collection. They also said it was essential to continue to support Ukraine as it fights against a Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday said the IRS cuts and Israel aid in the House bill would add nearly $30 billion to the US budget deficit, currently estimated at $1.7 trillion.

Representative Rosa DeLauro, ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, accused Republicans of delaying aid by backing a partisan bill that does not include Ukraine or humanitarian aid for civilians. "This bill abandons Ukraine. We will not abandon Israel and we will not abandon Ukraine. But their fortunes are linked," she said.

Democrat congresswoman Rashida Tlaib took the opportunity to criticise both the passing of the bill and President Joe Biden's support for Israel bombardment of Gaza saying "as the Israeli government carries out ethnic cleansing in Gaza, President Biden is cheering on Netanyahu, whose own citizens are protesting his refusal to support a ceasefire."

"Instead of funding more bombs with American taxpayer dollars, our leaders should be calling for a ceasefire now, before this violence claims thousands more lives," she added.

While Democrats and many Republicans still strongly support Ukraine, a smaller but vocal group of Republicans question sending more money to the government in Kyiv at a time of steep budget deficits.

Johnson, who voted against Ukraine aid repeatedly before he became speaker last month, plans to introduce a bill combining assistance for Ukraine with money to increase security at the US border with Mexico.

After the vote, Johnson urged the Senate and White House to quickly approve the bill. "The Senate and White House cannot let this moment pass, and I urge them to act swiftly and pass this bill as the House did today," he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Congress has approved $113 billion for Ukraine since the invasion began. 

(Reuters & The New Arab)

(This article was changed to add comments from US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib)