on the hill

Republican Israel aid bill passes with backing from 12 pro-Israel Democrats

Some of the Democrats who voted in support of the legislation were nevertheless deeply critical of it and angry that Republicans tied Israel funding to IRS cuts

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) speaks during a press conference on new legislation to support Holocaust education nationwide at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

A dozen Democratic House members crossed the aisle yesterday evening to vote in favor of Republicans’ Israel aid bill, which also cut billions in funding from the Internal Revenue Service, while most Democrats opposed the legislation.

Reps. Angie Craig (D-MN), Don Davis (D-NC), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Jared Golden (D-ME), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Greg Landsman (D-OH), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) voted for the bill. 

Their votes in favor of the bill came despite the fact that many of them had expressed deep criticism of the legislation prior to the vote — Wasserman Schultz delivered a tearful speech to the House Rules Committee on Wednesday night beseeching Republicans to change the bill, and accused Republicans on Thursday of “willingly jeopardizing” Israel’s security. The vote ultimately split the core bloc of pro-Israel Democrats in the House.

Wasserman Schultz said in a statement following the vote that she had personally urged other Democrats to oppose the bill “because of the horrendous precedent it set and the urgent need to pass the full emergency supplemental proposed by President Biden,” decrying the “gross politicization of this critical funding and an unprecedented conditioning of emergency aid to Israel.” 

“For me, as a Jew, as a Zionist and as the representative of a large Jewish community, I personally needed to cast my vote to stand by Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, in this moment of crisis,” Wasserman Schultz continued.

Gottheimer said in a statement that while he does not “support the Speaker’s approach to this legislation, we must ensure that Israel has the resources to defeat Hamas and other terrorists, and get every hostage home, including all Americans. The symbol to the world of voting no would have done more damage.” He said he “look[s] forward to voting for the Senate’s bipartisan bill.”

Stevens said in a statement that her vote was “a deeply personal decision” and that she “understand[s] the objections of my colleagues.”

“This bill is flawed — Republicans have degraded Israel to a political football by making aid contingent — something Congress has never done to our ally Israel,” she said. “However, I remain confident that with the support of my colleagues in the Senate, the necessary aid package will go to the President for signature.”

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) voted against the bill, expressing opposition to any foreign spending.

Lawmakers from both parties have argued that the House’s bill is dead on arrival in the Senate and will thereby ultimately slow down the provision of aid to Israel. Pro-Israel groups that supported the package largely appear to acknowledge that it will not ultimately pass Congress in its current form. House Democratic leadership and J Street both urged lawmakers not to vote for the bill.

Democrats have characterized the bill as leveraging Israel aid for partisan purposes and conditioning aid to Israel — something most House lawmakers have vowed never to do. In the past, “conditioning aid” has generally referred to provisions that would reduce the amount of aid that would go to Israel depending on certain Israeli actions, with the goal of influencing Israeli actions and policies.

In this case, Republicans argued that the funding cut was necessary to prevent an increase in the national debt. Democrats noted that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office assessed that the IRS cuts — designed to pay for the Israel spending, an unusual step for an emergency appropriations bill — would actually increase the deficit and decrease tax revenues in the long run. 

They also voiced concerns about the omission of aid to Ukraine and humanitarian assistance for Palestinians.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed yesterday that the upper chamber will not take up the House’s bill and will instead send back its own package including Ukraine and Taiwan aid, and the White House has threatened to veto the Republican legislation or an Israel-only bill. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that any aid package “must include” humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who chairs the foreign aid subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee, said during an event yesterday that the current $14.3 billion request will likely not be the last aid Congress will need to send Israel during this war.

“We have to continue to support Israel, no matter what,” he said.

Also yesterday, the House voted 396-23 in favor of a resolution condemning support for Hamas and other terrorist groups on college campuses. Twenty-two Democrats and Massie voted against the bill. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) told Jewish Insider afterward that he voted no by mistake.

Reps. David Kustoff (R-TN) and Wasserman Schultz introduced a separate bipartisan resolution, with more than 50 co-sponsors, condemning antisemitism on college campuses yesterday. The resolution is backed by a range of Jewish groups.

The resolution endorses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism as a “helpful tool for education administrators and faculty to identify antisemitism.”

It encourages school leaders to “publicly condemn speech that incites or celebrates violence against any people based on religious beliefs, national origin or ancestry” and urges them to engage with the Jewish community.

A day after Rep. Max Miller (R-OH) cast a surprising vote against a resolution to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the Ohio congressman introduced new legislation to censure the Democrat for antisemitic rhetoric. Miller’s resolution does not contain the repeated accusations of “insurrection” that helped sink the previous one.

“Any legislation that formally censures a member of Congress should be taken with a deliberate truthful message that bears the full punishment of a formal censure before the House of Representatives,” Miller said in a statement. “I firmly believe it is beyond time for Representative Tlaib to condemn antisemitism in all forms and face censure for her previous hate-filled rhetoric that has perpetuated hate towards people of Jewish faith and heritage.”

A Miller spokesperson told JI that he is not planning to force a floor vote on his resolution.

The House will vote on Friday on the SHIP Act, imposing additional oil sanctions on Iran and those that process and import Iranian oil.

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