NEWS

GOP-led House passes Israel aid, setting up a clash with the Senate

The legislation would provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel, pairing it with cuts to IRS funding that Democrats strongly oppose.

WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House passed a bill Thursday that would provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel as it wages war against Hamas, but Democrats say it’s dead on arrival in the Senate, and President Joe Biden has vowed to veto it.

The 226-196 vote was mostly along party lines. A dozen Democrats voted with nearly all Republicans in support of the measure; just two Republicans — Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — joined most Democrats in opposing it.

The bill, championed by newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is narrow in scope, pairing Israel aid with $14.3 billion in cuts to IRS funding that was approved through Biden’s 2022 sweeping climate, health and tax law.

House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. on Oct. 26, 2023.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on Oct. 26. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

The slim GOP majority got little help from Democrats, who mostly say they favor aid to Israel but voted against the bill because of the IRS cuts, decrying them as a poison pill. The IRS funding was designed to amp up enforcement and catch tax cheats, bringing in more revenue; Democrats point to a new Congressional Budget Office report that the overall measure would add nearly $27 billion to the deficit.

The House bill sets up a major clash over much-needed Israel aid with the Democratic-controlled Senate. Biden and Senate Democrats are backing a broader approach, pushing for $106 billion for both Israel and Ukraine aid and humanitarian aid for Gaza, as well as funding for U.S. border operations, in one package.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vow”I am glad that the president issued a veto threat over this stunningly unserious proposal,” Schumer said in a floor speech. “The Senate will not be considering this deeply flawed proposal from the House GOP.”

Addressing reporters at his first leadership news conference as speaker, Johnson on Thursday defended the GOP’s IRS provisions, arguing that, despite the CBO’s report, Americans want Congress to get its fiscal house in order.

“If Democrats in the Senate or the House or anyone else want to argue that hiring more IRS agents is more important than standing with Israel in this minute, I’m ready to have that debate,” he said.

“But I did not attach that for political purposes. I attached it because, again, we’re trying to get back to the principle of fiscal responsibility here,” he continued. “And that was the easiest and largest pile of money that’s sitting there for us to be able to pay for this immediate obligation.”

Despite Democratic leaders’ whipping members to vote no, 12 Democrats broke with their party and backed the bill. Among them were a handful of Jewish Democrats: Reps. Lois Frankel, Jared Moskowitz and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all of Florida; Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey; and Greg Landsman of Ohio. The others were Angie Craig of Minnesota; Don Davis of North Carolina; Darren Soto and Frederica Wilson, both of Florida; Haley Stevens of Michigan; and Juan Vargas of California.

“The grandson of a grandmother who escaped the Holocaust, who was part of the Kindertransport out of Germany, you know, I was just going to be a ‘yes’ next to Israel,” Moskowitz said, explaining his vote.

But he added that his Democratic colleagues were right to accuse the new speaker of politicizing the Israel issue. “This was his first full week, first big vote, national security issue for the American people, a national security issue for Israel, our No. 1 ally, and he played politics for it so that he could send out a political mailer,” he said.

Congress is barreling toward a Nov. 17 deadline to fund the government in the first big test for Johnson. The House and the Senate are taking different paths in the appropriations process, and lawmakers are moving toward another short-term funding bill. Aid to Israel may end up attached to a stopgap measure if it doesn’t pass separately by then.

“There’s a growing recognition that we’re going to need another stopgap funding measure,” Johnson told reporters, adding that his preference is a short-term bill through Jan. 15 but that he’s still sounding out members for ideas.