Lawmakers advanced a Republican-crafted stand-alone Israel aid package Thursday, but the Democratic-led Senate and White House have warned that the bill is dead on arrival.
Speaker Mike Johnson’s $14.3 billion aid bill passed on a 226-196 vote that mostly followed party lines, in the first major test since his election to the post last week. A dozen Democrats joined most of the Republican conference to pass the measure.
Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky stood by their promises to vote against the bill because of concerns about providing foreign aid to any country while U.S. debt is mounting. They were the only conservatives to break from their party on the vote.
House Democrats, by and large, rejected the bill because they believed that funding the plan by clawing back money for more IRS agents was making aid to Israel conditional.
“We do not condition emergency appropriations,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. “This is the first time we have conditioned aid for Israel.”
Mr. Johnson’s stand-alone bill was plucked from a $106 billion emergency aid package that President Biden requested.
The White House, congressional Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, oppose separating Israel aid from Ukraine aid. They say Mr. Biden’s umbrella proposal is the best path forward to reach the 60-vote threshold in the Senate.
Mr. Johnson’s choice to piecemeal the aid request, plus funding the bill with money meant for the IRS, has all but doomed the legislation in the Democratic-led Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said in a post on X that the Senate would not take up the House’s “deeply flawed proposal.”
“Instead we will work on our own bipartisan emergency aid package that includes funding for aid to Israel, Ukraine, humanitarian aid including for Gaza, and competition with the Chinese Government,” Mr. Schumer wrote.
The White House has promised to veto the Republicans’ bill on similar grounds.
“The president would veto an only-Israel bill. I think that we’ve made that clear,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at a White House briefing.
Many Senate Republicans are splitting from Mr. McConnell’s approach to the package. These opponents want to alter border policy, such as the end of catch-and-release programs, instead of more funding that they say would not slow the deluge of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Conservatives in the upper chamber are working on their own aid package.
Mr. Johnson stood by his bill, which reshuffles funding from the $80 billion pool given to the IRS by the Inflation Reduction Act. Republicans touted the move as a way to offset spending and cut into the national debt.
The speaker said clawing back money from the IRS was the “easiest and largest pile of money” and contended that lawmakers who disagree would have to explain to Americans why they supported hiring more IRS agents.
The Congressional Budget Office said the reshuffling of money would add more than $12 billion to the deficit over the next decade because up to $26 billion in revenue from the agency would be lost.
Many Republicans called the nonpartisan body’s report inaccurate.
“The CBO is making the assessment that the IRS is going to squeeze more money out of our hardworking constituents. I mean, I don’t find that to be a good response,” said Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, New York Republican.
Next up for the House is tackling a Ukraine aid bill that Mr. Johnson promised to take up after the Israel package advanced. His vision for a funding package for the region would also include more money for U.S.-Mexico border security.
“It’s just a matter of principle that if we were going to take care of a border in Ukraine, we need to take care of America’s border as well,” Mr. Johnson said.
A growing consensus among House Republicans is that Congress should not greenlight any more funding for the war-beleaguered country until Mr. Biden provides a clear strategy on U.S. involvement in the region and how Ukraine will win the war against Russia.
Mr. Johnson provided a list of those questions to Mr. Biden from Rep. Mike Garcia, California Republican, during the speaker’s first visit with the president last week.
Mr. Garcia told The Washington Times that the White House had not answered the questions, including its scenarios for a winning strategy and an endgame for U.S. involvement.
He said answers could be coming “imminently” but wanted the administration to take its time to provide quality responses to his and other lawmakers’ questions. Mr. Garcia said he thought Mr. Johnson’s pitch to include U.S.-Mexico border funding with Ukraine aid was a good idea, but he was firm that he wanted a strategy before funding.
“That’s a good negotiation strategy, but we still have to have reasonable mission statements as well as a path to victory,” Mr. Garcia said.