Israel funding bill fails in House, as senators declare compromise legislation dead

The House’s Israel bill didn’t receive the two-thirds majority needed for passage, only winning 250 mostly-Republican votes

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Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) arrives to a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on February 06, 2024 in Washington, DC.

The House failed on Tuesday evening to pass a stand-alone Israel aid bill amid opposition from many Democrats and a handful of Republicans. Meanwhile, senators declared their bipartisan compromise legislation on the border — which Republicans had said was necessary to advance foreign aid — to be dead.

The demise of both the House and the Senate’s bills will force Congress back to the drawing board to piece together a new plan to advance aid to Israel, potentially seeking to advance a smaller package including funding for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. The House’s rejection of the unconditioned Israel funding measure is rare, but the debate over Israel funding is entangled in debates over Ukraine and immigration policy.

The House bill, which required support from two-thirds of the House, ultimately failed by a vote of 250-180. Forty-six Democrats, mostly stalwart pro-Israel lawmakers, voted for the bill, and 14 Republicans on the far right voted against it.

House Democratic leadership opposed the bill, and President Joe Biden had threatened to veto it, advocating for Congress to pass a package bill including Israel and Ukraine aid along with immigration policy changes, among other funding areas. Pro-Israel groups including AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel had been urging lawmakers to vote for the stand-alone Israel bill, although DMFI subsequently blamed Republicans for its failure.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said on Tuesday afternoon that he planned to move the Israel funding bill through the House Rules Committee next week if it failed, to allow for a second House vote requiring only a simple majority for passage.

But that plan doesn’t appear to be viable, given that the three right-wing Republicans on the committee — Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Chip Roy (R-TX) and Ralph Norman (R-SC) — all voted against the Israel-only bill. Assuming no lawmakers on the committee flip their votes, the bill would not have the votes to pass the Rules Committee.

Even if the House does, somehow, ultimately pass the stand-alone Israel bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he would not hold a vote on it.

Meanwhile, senators on both sides of the aisle said Tuesday that the immigration deal, which had been under negotiation for months, is effectively dead, amid opposition from former President Donald Trump and House Republicans.

Schumer said he still plans to proceed with a procedural vote on the bill on Wednesday — urging Republicans to vote for the procedural motion and then put forward amendments — but the motion is likely to fail. He told reporters to “stay tuned” as to what might come next.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — in a reversal from his and other Republicans’ monthslong position on the issue — said on Tuesday that Senate Democrats should put forward a more limited package including aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

He and other Republicans had initially rejected that idea — which largely echoes President Joe Biden’s original funding request — demanding significant immigration policy changes as a prerequisite for Ukraine aid.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) told Jewish Insider following a Senate Republican lunch meeting that he wasn’t sure if trying to move forward with a smaller package without border security would be feasible, but said that his colleagues are “rethinking” the possibility.

Senate Republicans have argued that the border compromise doesn’t go far enough.

“What has happened here over the last four months is outrageous,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the Democrats’ lead border negotiator, said at a press conference on Tuesday. “It is doubly outrageous for [Republicans] to now oppose the very bill that they begged us to craft.”

Murphy noted that Republicans’ new proposal to advance foreign aid without border policy is “the thing they all stood together in October and said they DEFINITELY WOULDN’T SUPPORT unless we attached a bipartisan border fix.”

Senate Democrats pointed blame for the compromise’s collapse squarely at Trump, who “came along and said he didn’t want to solve the border problem, he wanted it as a campaign issue,” Schumer said.

Biden delivered a speech on Tuesday urging Republicans to reconsider supporting the Senate bill and allow it to move forward. Biden said he was not yet ready to concede that the bill had failed.

“We need it all,” Biden said, “the rest of the world is looking at us.”

A slimmed-down bill only including foreign aid could still struggle in the House, given that many Republicans now oppose additional aid to Ukraine.

It’s also not clear whether humanitarian aid for Palestinians or security grant funding for religious institutions in the U.S. could be included in a shrunken supplemental package.

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