House approves nearly $14.5 billion in military aid for Israel. Biden vows to veto the GOP approach

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., center, joined by, from left, Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., talks with reporters Thursday ahead of the debate and vote on supplemental aid to Israel, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The House approved a nearly $14.5 billion military aid package Thursday for Israel, a muscular U.S. response to the war with Hamas but also a partisan approach by new Speaker Mike Johnson that poses a direct challenge to Democrats and President Joe Biden.

In a departure from norms, Johnson’s package required that the emergency aid be offset with cuts in government spending elsewhere. That tack established the new House GOP’s conservative leadership, but it also turned what would typically be a bipartisan vote into one dividing Democrats and Republicans. Biden has said he would veto the bill, which was approved 226-196, with 12 Democrats joining most Republicans on a largely party-line vote.


Johnson, R-La., said the Republican package would provide Israel with the assistance needed to defend itself, free hostages held by Hamas and eradicate the militant Palestinian group, accomplishing “all of this while we also work to ensure responsible spending and reduce the size of the federal government.”

Democrats said that approach would only delay help for Israel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has warned that the “stunningly unserious” bill has no chances in the Senate.

The first substantial legislative effort in Congress to support Israel in the war falls far short of Biden’s request for nearly $106 billion that would also back Ukraine as it fights Russia, along with U.S. efforts to counter China and address security at the border with Mexico.

It is also Johnson’s first big test as House speaker as the Republican majority tries to get back to work after the month of turmoil since ousting Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as speaker. Johnson has said he will turn next to aid for Ukraine along with U.S. border security, preferring to address Biden’s requests separately as GOP lawmakers increasingly oppose aiding Kyiv.

The White House’s veto warning said Johnson’s approach “fails to meet the urgency of the moment” and would set a dangerous precedent by requiring emergency funds to come from cuts elsewhere.

While the amount for Israel in the House bill is similar to what Biden sought, the White House said the Republican plan’s failure to include humanitarian assistance for Gaza is a “grave mistake” as the crisis deepens.

Biden on Wednesday called for a pause in the war to allow for relief efforts.

“This bill would break with the normal, bipartisan approach to providing emergency national security assistance,” the White House wrote in its statement of administration policy on the legislation. It said the GOP stance “would have devastating implications for our safety and alliances in the years ahead.”

It was unclear before voting Thursday how many Democrats would join with Republicans. The White House had been directly appealing to lawmakers, particularly calling Jewish Democrats, urging them to reject the bill.

White House chief of staff Jeff Zients, counselor to the president Steve Ricchetti and other senior White House staff have been engaging House Democrats, said a person familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss it.

But the vote was difficult for some lawmakers, particularly Democrats who wanted to support Israel and may have trouble explaining the trade-off to constituents, especially as the large AIPAC lobby and other groups encouraged passage. In all, two Republicans opposed the bill.

Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill, who voted against the package, said: “It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.”

To pay for the bill, House Republicans have attached provisions that would cut billions from the IRS that Democrats approved last year and Biden signed into law as a way to go after tax cheats. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says doing that would end up costing the federal government a net $12.5 billion because of lost revenue from tax collections.

Republicans scoffed at that assessment, but the independent budget office is historically seen as a trusted referee.

Backers said the package would provide support for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, procurement of advanced weaponry and other military needs, and help with protection and evacuations of U.S. citizens. CBO pegged the overall package at about $14.3 billion for Israel.

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