House to vote on separate Israel bill amid conservative backlash to border and aid package

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The House will vote on a standalone bill to provide aid to Israel as hard-right Republicans attempt to thwart a Senate bipartisan border bill that seeks to impose tougher immigration and asylum laws and includes foreign aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on Saturday announced the vote on the separate Israel bill after the Senate reached a tentative immigration deal. The Senate released the text of the bipartisan border bill Sunday, which combines Israel and Ukraine with a package of stricter border security and asylum laws.

The standalone Israel bill includes $17.6 billion in military aid to the country “as well as important funding for U.S. Forces in the region,” Johnson’s office has said. The bill, titled the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, is expected to be introduced by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., the speaker’s office said. The bill does not contain spending offsets that Johnson said Democrats objected to in previous legislation.

Early in Johnson’s speakership, the House passed a bill that would have provided $14.3 billion in aid to Israel but also included IRS cuts, which Senate Democrats and President Joe Biden opposed.

The Biden administration issued a formal veto threat Monday to the standalone Israel aid bill, saying it “strongly opposes” the measure after having worked with a bipartisan group of senators for months to come to an agreement on legislation that aims to secure the border and provide aid to Ukraine and Israel.

“Instead of working in good faith to address the most pressing national security challenges, this bill is another cynical political maneuver,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy. 

“The security of Israel should be sacred, not a political game,” the OMB statement added. “The Administration strongly opposes this ploy which does nothing to secure the border, does nothing to help the people of Ukraine defend themselves against Putin’s aggression, fails to support the security of American synagogues, mosques, and vulnerable places of worship, and denies humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians, the majority of whom are women and children.”

The Israel aid bill comes as Republican hardliners try to thwart the $118 billion bipartisan Senate border bill. That measure includes provisions seeking to address record-high crossings at the southern border and contains foreign aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. Republicans have said they would support foreign aid to those countries if it is tied with new policies restricting U.S. immigration.

But Johnson said after the border bill was unveiled that it “will be dead on arrival” if it reaches the House. The top four House Republican leaders — Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Republican Conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York — have also said they oppose the bill “because it fails in every policy area needed to secure our border and would actually incentivize more illegal immigration.”

The Israel aid bill will need a two-thirds majority to pass in the House under an expedited process for its consideration — a steep hurdle. The standalone measure is also expected to be dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate.

Complicating matter further for Johnson, the legislation faces opposition from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which criticized its lack of provisions to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere.

“The most principled action taken to date by Speaker Johnson was the decision to pass a standalone, fully paid-for Israel funding bill in November, demonstrating our commitment to supporting our most important ally in a fiscally responsible manner,” the House Freedom Caucus said in a statement. “It is extremely disappointing that the Speaker is now surrendering to perceived pressure to move an even larger but now unpaid for Israel aid package — reversing course on his stance to require new supplemental spending to be offset.”

“Conservatives should not be forced to choose between borrowing money to support our special friend Israel or honoring our commitment to end unpaid supplemental spending that exacerbate our nation’s unsustainable fiscal crisis and further risks our ability to respond to future crises,” they added.

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