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8 Nov, 2023 00:57

US Senate Democrats block aid for Israel

Lawmakers demanded cash for Ukraine be included in the funding bill
US Senate Democrats block aid for Israel

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a House bill that would have provided emergency aid to Israel without funding to Ukraine, demanding the Republicans agree to President Joe Biden’s $106 billion bundle request instead.

The White House proposal has sought to combine the aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and migration policy – presented as “border security” – in order to overcome opposition by some Republicans to continued funding of Kiev. 

The Republican-majority House of Representatives, however, passed a $14 billion standalone package for Israel last week, to be offset by cuts to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“Time is of the essence and it's imperative that the Senate not delay delivering this crucial aid to Israel another day,” Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas said on Tuesday, urging the Democrats to agree to the House bill.

“Our allies in Ukraine can no more afford a delay than our allies in Israel,” replied Patty Murray of Washington, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Biden has already said he would veto the House bill were it somehow to be approved in the Senate, where Democrats control 51 out of the 100 seats. Unlike the simple-majority rules of the House, a bill requires 60 votes to pass in the Senate, meaning at least nine Republicans would need to cross the aisle.

According to the Pentagon, the US has sent Ukraine over $44 billion in military aid since February 2022, including weapons, equipment and ammunition. The US has insisted this does not make it a party to the conflict with Russia, however. American taxpayers have also contributed around $4 billion in humanitarian aid and almost $27 billion in “economic assistance,” including paying the salaries of Ukrainian government employees.

An alleged secret deal with the White House to fund Ukraine cost the former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy his job in early October, leading to a three-week deadlock in the lower house of Congress. The new speaker, Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson, has voted against continued funding of Kiev and expressed support for single-item bills.

The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which the Pentagon has used to buy new equipment for Kiev from the US military industry, ran out earlier this week, according to the White House. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has told the Senate that Ukraine would lose the conflict with Russia without continued US assistance.

Senate Democrats are reportedly working on their own funding proposal and hope to introduce it later this week, according to Reuters.