House GOP leaders looking to fast-track aid to Israel, after Iran strike

Republicans are still divided over whether the legislation would include aid for Ukraine and Taiwan, amid continued criticism of Ukraine from the GOP’s right wing

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) listen during remarks at a Capitol Menorah lighting ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 12, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

House Republican leaders said they would rush an Israel aid bill and other Israel-related legislation to the House floor after the massive Iranian attack on Israel on Saturday.

But as of Sunday evening, it remained unclear exactly what funding bill the House would be voting on; House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) suggested the House would also be considering Ukraine aid, but left it unclear whether the two would be combined into one or voted on separately, and other details of the funding bills’ format.

House Republicans are set to meet Monday evening to discuss the attack and potential aid packages. On Sunday evening, Republicans announced plans for votes on close to 20 resolutions related to Iran, its proxies and Israel, with a note that, “Additional legislative items related to security supplemental appropriations are possible.”

Johnson is facing urgent calls from inside his party to move forward with foreign aid ahead of a scheduled weeklong congressional recess.

“Iran, Russia and China have engaged in an unholy alliance to undermine and destabilize the US, Israel and the free world,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) said in a statement. “We must act decisively — Congress must pass aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan AND the Senate must pass the SHIP Act.”

A handful of other House Republicans have likewise emphasized the need for multi-pronged foreign aid efforts while others called for immediate assistance to Israel, without mentioning Ukraine and Taiwan.

Hawkish Senate Republicans renewed their push for the House to take up the Senate’s foreign aid bill. 

“Congress must also do its part,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement. “The national security supplemental that has waited months for action will provide critical resources to Israel and our own military forces in the region.”

Many House Democrats, particularly pro-Israel moderates, have also come out in force to call for the House to immediately take up the Senate-passed aid bill, and have largely urged for the U.S. to stand firmly behind Israel and its defense.

Passing anything other than the Senate-approved bill “will delay the resources to getting to Israel, Ukraine, the far east and humanitarian relief, and I think that’s a very very bad mistake,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told Jewish Insider Sunday evening. “I am absolutely confident we can pass it.”

Any bill not already passed by the Senate would be subject to a potentially lengthy process in the upper chamber, which would likely involve a fight over Israel aid.

Hoyer said Johnson should bring the bill up for a vote as soon as Monday evening, warning that any alterations to the Senate’s bill would slow down the provision of the aid, which is “needed now.”

He said it would be a “bad mistake” to try to bring a standalone Israel bill to the floor.

But other Republicans, such as Republican Study Committee Chair Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), are making a new push for the House to pass a stand-alone, Israel-only aid bill. Such a bill failed to pass earlier this year and it’s unclear that sufficient support would be forthcoming now.

Hoyer said that he thinks the Senate bill would likely pass in the House on suspension — a procedure requiring a two-thirds vote — but acknowledged that it could be risky. Around half of Republicans oppose Ukraine aid and a faction of left-wing Democrats oppose Israel aid.

“I think some may try to weigh the balance between their concerns about either Ukraine or Israel and getting humanitarian relief to people who need it as soon as possible,” Hoyer said. 

But Hoyer predicted that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) would instruct Democratic Rules Committee members to take the relatively rare step of voting with Republicans to allow the Senate-passed aid bill to move a simple majority vote in the House.

The former Democratic leader predicted that at least 25 Republicans, including senior GOP lawmakers, could join the Democratic discharge petition to force a vote on the Senate bill if Johnson doesn’t act promptly this week.

He also said that some of the Ukraine-related policies Republicans have proposed tying to the Senate bill would likely pass the House easily as standalone legislation, avoiding further delays to the supplemental.

Many of the Democrats who’ve been critical of Israel’s military operations in Gaza have called for restraint and de-escalation, urging Israel not to respond to the attack. And the loudest opponents of Israel have doubled down on their condemnations of the Jewish state and reiterated their calls to cut off U.S. aid.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) again declared his opposition to additional weapons for Israel.

“We need to pass a bill to support Ukraine this week. Tying it to other subjects needlessly complicates it,” Pocan said. “We also need to ensure there is not a widening conflict in the Middle East. Supporting Israelis & Palestinians is possible without supporting offensive weapons in Rafah.”

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) condemned both the Iranian attack and the earlier Israeli strike against Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials at the Iranian consulate in Syria, repeatedly condemning the Israeli government and accusing it of war crimes and genocide and of potentially instigating regional war.

Hours into the attack, Bush posted an anti-AIPAC message on a campaign account. She later deleted it with no explanation.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) pointed blame for Iran’s attack squarely toward Israel, declaring “it’s clearer than ever that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s warmongering is putting the lives of millions of civilians at risk, including the Israeli people.”

While not directly addressing his colleagues, Hoyer offered pushback to those who criticize the U.S.’s support for Israel.

“I hope that people in America who are questioning to some degree the strong support this administration is giving to Israel understand that Israel is surrounded by — probably 10 times its size — by enemies… by people who want to eliminate it, who want to destroy Israel,” Hoyer said. “They are a strong, principled, courageous country, with an extraordinarily effective armed forces in the IDF.”

He also expressed strong condemnation of Hamas, particularly in light of reports that Hamas claims it cannot produce many of the remaining hostages.

“We need to understand that the world understands that we’re with [Israel] and we are going to stand with them and honor their freedom and right to defend themselves,” Hoyer continued.

Even before the Iranian attack on Israel, pro-Ukraine Republicans had been growing publicly more frustrated with the delays, including Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) who has been working with other national security committee leaders to craft a House version of the aid package, which McCaul said is essentially complete. 

McCaul said Friday that the aid bill must come up for a vote this week, arguing that “we’re running out of time. We can’t go through another recess and do nothing.” He said that slipping Democratic support for Israel is also driving that urgency.

Johnson still faces a threat to his speakership from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) if he allows Ukraine aid to move forward.

On the Democratic side, a few additional lawmakers who have been skeptical of additional Israel aid signed onto Democrats’ discharge petition at the end of last week.

Key Democratic lawmakers are working to win over both progressives — calling on them to support the petition even if they won’t ultimately vote in favor of the bill — as well as moderate Republicans, a source familiar with the talks told JI.

But there is an increasingly vocal group of progressives that is digging in against the bill, given their opposition to aid to Israel, and are calling for the Ukraine aid bill to be split off and voted on separately. The source familiar with the talks estimated that 10 to 15 Democrats can’t be won over on the issue, requiring significant GOP support for the petition.

The source also said there has been some interest from pro-Israel lawmakers in holding stand-alone votes on Israel and Ukraine aid. Overall, the source added, there’s widespread frustration with the delays and Democratic members are looking for various ways that the aid could advance.

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