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26 Oct, 2023 15:42

US Republicans propose splitting Israel and Ukraine aid

The move would circumvent President Biden’s bid to force the GOP into sending another $61 billion to Kiev
US Republicans propose splitting Israel and Ukraine aid

A group of US Republican senators have introduced a standalone bill that would prevent Washington sending a proposed $61 billion to Ukraine while approving $14 billion in military aid to Israel. US president Joe Biden has attempted to leverage the GOP’s support for West Jerusalem against its skepticism towards Kiev by tying aid for the two countries together, the senators claimed.

Introduced on Thursday by Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, Ohio’s J.D. Vance, Utah’s Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz of Texas, the ‘Israel Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023’ would provide $10.6 billion in direct military aid to Israel, along with $3.5 billion in grants for foreign military sales and $200 million to beef up security at US embassies and offices in the country.

President Joe Biden has already asked Congress to pass a $14 billion military aid package for Israel but insists it be passed as part of an overall $106 billion national security funding bill including $61.4 billion for Ukraine and $13.6 billion for border security in the US. 

“My colleagues and I firmly believe that any aid to Israel should not be used as leverage to send tens of billions of dollars to Ukraine,” Senator Marshall said on Thursday. “It is unreasonable for the administration to exploit an aid package for Israel to siphon off billions of taxpayer dollars in yet another blank check for Ukraine,” Lee added.

Marshall, Vance, and Lee all voted against the last Ukraine aid package, while Cruz voted in favor. 

Democrats hold a one-seat majority in the Senate, but need to win over nine Republicans in order to pass Biden’s bill. While Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lent his support to the bill earlier this week, South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds told Politico that the package was essentially “dead,” and unlikely to pass.

The bill’s chances are even more slim in the House of Representatives, where the narrow Republican majority succeeded in removing $6 billion in funding for Kiev from a government spending bill earlier this month. Following the bill’s passage, a group of hardline conservative Republicans voted to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over his reluctance to insist on single-issue bills and his alleged negotiation of “a secret side-deal” with Biden to funnel money to Ukraine, in the words of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.

McCarthy’s replacement, Mike Johnson, was elected speaker on Wednesday. An ally of former President Donald Trump, Johnson has voted against two packages of aid for Ukraine since last year, and questioned whether Kiev was being “entirely forthcoming and transparent about the use of this massive sum of taxpayer resources.”

On Israel, however, Johnson has pledged to do whatever he can to “provide the support and resources necessary to rid the Middle East and the world of Hamas’ terrorist regime.” In his first action as speaker, Johnson introduced a resolution condemning the Palestinian militant group and declaring that the House “stands with Israel.” The resolution passed by 412 votes to 10.