House Speaker Johnson announces ‘standalone’ Israel funding package

House Speaker Johnson announces ‘standalone’ Israel funding package

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) holds a press conference following a caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on January 30, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., announced Saturday an Israel-only funding package to be voted on next week, another step in stalled negotiations over emergency aid that President Joe Biden originally proposed in October.

The House proposal poses a challenge to a long-awaited Senate package expected to be released this weekend. The Senate bill is expected to include broader foreign aid than just Israel and address funding for border security.

But the Republican-majority House of Representatives has expressed its intention to vigorously oppose the Senate’s proposal, especially as Johnson seeks to appease Republican hardliners who expect him to fulfill their ultra-conservative wish list of limiting spending and improving border security to maximize.

“While the Senate finally appears ready to release the text of its amendment after months of closed-door negotiations, its leadership recognizes that by not including the House in their negotiations, they have lost the opportunity to quickly consider legislation.” wrote Johnson in a letter addressed to “Friends.”

“Next week we will take up and adopt a clear, stand-alone Israel supplementary package,” the spokesman added.

The House bill includes $17.6 billion for Israeli military and U.S. forces in the region as the war with Hamas continues in Gaza. If approved, this funding would be in addition to the $14.3 billion the House approved for Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

This bill separates aid to Israel from Ukraine, Taiwan and the U.S. southern border, all of which were linked in Biden’s original $105 billion aid proposal. That original bill included $61 billion for Ukraine, $14.3 billion for Israel, $6.4 billion for the U.S. border and $2 billion for Taiwan.

But disagreements over how to address the U.S. border and whether to continue funding Ukraine’s defense against Russia slowed passage of Biden’s October aid package.

Democrats and Republicans have negotiated back and forth over the proposal for months, leading to a near government shutdown and eating up some lawmakers’ holidays.

Democrats argue that funding Ukraine is crucial to preventing the further rise of authoritarian Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his threat to global democracy. Meanwhile, Republicans want to cut aid to Ukraine, claiming that the nearly two-year war has led to overspending in the U.S. with no clear end in sight.

The border has been another key sticking point as the number of migrants crossing into the U.S. reached record highs in recent months. The influx has overwhelmed some cities whose mayors say they do not have the resources or infrastructure to accommodate the incoming migrant population. This crisis has led Republicans to push even harder for their border security wish list, which includes policies that the Democratic-majority Senate would likely never pass.

These disputes brought the emergency aid package to a standstill for months. Democratic and Republican lawmakers said they were working to find a middle ground.

Both sides expressed optimism that they would make progress. For example, Johnson and Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in January that they had a productive meeting with Biden in which they assured that they could reach a bipartisan agreement to resolve the border, Ukraine and the president’s remaining funding requests.

In recent weeks, however, politics have hampered this progress. In closed-door sessions, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky reportedly told senators that former President Donald Trump wanted to torpedo the deal to prevent Biden from winning in an election year. Trump has regularly used the border crisis as a campaign issue against Biden in his re-election bid in 2024.

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2024-02-03 20:45:34