A group of US lawmakers proposed that the Biden administration pursue a joint aid package for Israel and Ukraine that would capitalize on broad bipartisan support for the Jewish state to overcome opposition from some Republicans to continued funding for Kyiv.
(Bloomberg) — A group of US lawmakers proposed that the Biden administration pursue a joint aid package for Israel and Ukraine that would capitalize on broad bipartisan support for the Jewish state to overcome opposition from some Republicans to continued funding for Kyiv.
They raised the idea to White House officials over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified to describe private conversations.
White House officials described the discussion as premature, noting that President Joe Biden could tap current authorizations to provide immediate aid. They said the scope of assistance Israel may need isn’t known so soon after the weekend attack by the militant group Hamas.
Any attempt to link the aid could also be easily unraveled by opposition in Congress, where the House of Representatives remains unable to approve any package until it agrees on a speaker. Several members of the GOP conference insist that aid for Israel and Ukraine must be addressed separately.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday evening that the White House didn’t have a sense of how the Israel situation would impact Ukraine assistance.
“Both are important and we are a large enough, big enough, economically viable and vibrant enough country to be able to support both,” Kirby said.
One key Republican, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, seems to agree. He floated to reporters Monday evening a package that would combine funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the US-Mexico border — while acknowledging that any such measure first requires the House to elect a speaker.
Even before the Hamas attack on Israel, a number of House Republicans had demanded that more support for Ukraine be paired with new funding for border enforcement. That was a main sticking point last month, when lawmakers passed disaster relief requested by the White House without Ukraine assistance in a short-term spending package to avert a government shutdown.
Read more: Ukraine Aid Falls by Wayside as Congress Passes Spending Bill
Now, with growing cracks in the Republican conference over whether to continue supplying Kyiv, several Republicans are insisting that aid for Israel must be addressed separately.
“I don’t think that’s a fair way to do it,” Representative Tom Cole said of a joint package. “It’s much easier for us to unite around” support for Israel than Ukraine, he said.
Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Anna Paulina Luna said Israel and Ukraine should be addressed as separate issues, and Representative Michael Burgess said Israel should come before Ukraine aid because its situation is more urgent.
The US has supplied about $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in early 2022. The Biden administration requested a further $24 billion as part of a supplemental spending package in August. The US provides more than $3 billion in military aid to Israel every year, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The US needs to show the world it will stand with Israel, Former speaker Kevin McCarthy told NBC’s Meet the Press on Monday. Asked whether he feels the same way about Ukraine, McCarthy said, “Ukraine has $9 billion and Israel is in the middle of a war with nothing.”
The chamber remains at an impasse with an initial speaker vote scheduled for Wednesday Some lawmakers fear a repeat of the 15 ballots it took to elect McCarthy in January.
Read more: McCarthy Hints at Return to Speakership Amid Israel Conflict
The House can’t afford to wait two weeks for the speaker race, and the chamber needs to pass an Israel package quickly, said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. The administration needs to consult with members of Congress before submitting a request, he said, adding that Ukraine already has money it can access.
But Representative Max Miller said the House needs to wait at least another week to elect a speaker — even considering the urgency of the situation in Israel.
“Make no mistake, time is always of the essence,” he said. “But right now we have a crisis on our hands that we also need to get through.”
–With assistance from Steven T. Dennis, Laura Litvan and Erik Wasson.
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