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House fails to pass standalone Israel aid bill as Senate package stalls

Turner: House has to "make certain" there's a path for Ukraine aid
Rep. Mike Turner says House has to "make certain" there's a path for Ukraine aid 12:49

Washington — The House on Tuesday rejected a standalone bill to send billions of dollars in aid to Israel, with Republicans joining Democrats to defeat the effort to separate the assistance from a broader national security package that appears to be stalled in the Senate.

By a vote of 250 to 180, the House voted against the legislation that would send $17.6 billion to Israel, with 166 Democrats and 14 Republicans opposing the measure. The bill required the support of two-thirds of the House to pass. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, called the vote's failure "a disappointing rebuke to our closest ally in the Middle East at their time of great need." He said the GOP made a "major concession" by putting a clean, standalone bill up for a vote to address Democrats' previous concerns. 

"It is clear they are now committed to using Israel aid as leverage to force through other priorities that do not enjoy nearly the same degree of consensus," Johnson's statement said. "Leveraging Israel aid as it fights for survival is wrong." 

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who otherwise support sending more aid to the U.S. ally opposed the legislation for different reasons. Conservative Republicans objected because it did not include a mechanism to pay for the billions of dollars in spending. Democrats insisted on passing aid to Israel as part of a larger bill that includes money for Ukraine, Taiwan, humanitarian relief for civilians in Gaza and other priorities.

Passage of the standalone bill would have further complicated efforts in the Senate to rally support for the bipartisan national security package that appears to be on life support. 

Johnson announced the Israel legislation in a letter to colleagues on Saturday, one day before the unveiling of the Senate's broader security package.

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. 

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." 

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the national security supplemental had no chance of becoming law given the House's stance and suggested that the foreign aid portion be repackaged. 

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."

Johnson's decision to remove the cuts to the IRS drew 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."

GOP Rep. Bob Good of Virginia said Tuesday that Israel is "our most important ally" but "we need to end the era of borrowing for supplementals." Rep. Ralph Norman, a South Carolina Republican, said he was also opposed to the bill because it lacked offsets. 

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

— Scott MacFarlane, Nikole Killion and Jaala Brown contributed reporting. 

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