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4 Feb, 2024 01:35

US House to vote on Israel-only aid bill – speaker

President Biden struggles to secure a $60 billion funding package for Ukraine
US House to vote on Israel-only aid bill – speaker

The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, announced on Saturday that he would hold a vote on a “clean, standalone” aid package for Israel that will not entail any spending cuts.

The newly proposed legislation is set to include $17.6 billion in additional military funding as well as “important funding for US forces in the region.” The initial  $14.3 billion package, rejected by the Senate last year, included an equal amount in spending cuts to the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) and was therefore branded by Democrats as a “poison pill.”

“Next week, we will take up and pass a clean, standalone Israel supplemental package,” he wrote in a letter to colleagues sent on Saturday afternoon. “The Senate will no longer have excuses, however misguided, against swift passage of this critical support for our ally.”

The announcement comes as the Senate prepares to vote on a long-anticipated national security supplemental requested by US President Joe Biden, which will include tougher US border controls paired with nearly $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, as well as more assistance to Israel and Taiwan. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday that he was preparing to release the legislation text “no later than Sunday” with the first procedural vote coming by midweek.

However, Johnson previously criticized the impending deal, calling it “dead of arrival” in the lower chamber if the provisions are what they are rumored to be. The Senate leadership “is aware that by failing to include the House in their negotiations, they have eliminated the ability for swift consideration of any legislation,” Johnson wrote.

The White House previously indicated that it would oppose a stand-alone Israel aid bill, with John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, saying President Biden would veto it.

While Washington is struggling to secure additional military funding for Ukraine, Brussels approved a €50 billion ($54 billion) aid package on Thursday, having reportedly pressured Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban into lifting his veto. Orban, who previously called Ukraine “one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” accused the “imperialist EU” of “blackmailing” him into accepting the deal.