US House speaker plans vote this week on stand-alone Israel aid bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Newly installed U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Sunday he expects floor action this week to advance a funding bill to support Israel exclusively, even though President Joe Biden is pushing for a $106 billion aid package for Israel and Ukraine combined.

“We’re going to move a stand-alone Israel funding bill this week in the House,” Johnson said in an interview on Fox News, adding that he believes the measure will draw bipartisan support and that Republicans will back a similar measure in the Senate.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, which Republicans control by a narrow majority, are scheduled to return from a recess on Wednesday.

“There are lots of things going on around the world that we have to address and we will,” Johnson said, without explicitly mentioning the Ukraine conflict. “But right now what’s happening in Israel takes the immediate attention, and we’ve got to separate that and get it through.”

Biden has called for Congress to approve $106 billion in supplemental appropriations, with the bulk of the money going to bolster Ukraine’s defenses against Russia, and the remainder split among Israel, the Indo-Pacific region and immigration enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Johnson has said bolstering support for Israel should top the U.S. national security agenda in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 surprise attack on the Jewish state by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip that killed more than 1,400 people and saw more than 200 others taken hostage.

In retaliation, Israel has sealed off Gaza and launched a barrage of air strikes on the coastal Palestinian enclave followed by a ground offensive, killing more than 7,000 Palestinians, including nearly 3,000 children, according Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

(Reporting by Brad Heath in Washingto; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Stephen Coates)