Updated Oct 11, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Some in Congress are thinking big on Israel aid

Hamas rockets are intercepted by counter-battery fire from the Iron Dome over the skies of Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.

Lawmakers in both parties are looking to Israel aid as a potential vehicle to pass other emergency spending packages — even as some Republicans warn the effort could be a non-starter.

Why it matters: Providing military assistance to Israel is broadly popular in Congress, and the funding has been given top priority after Hamas' surprise attack.

What they're saying: Former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a senior Appropriations Committee member, told Axios that Ukraine and Taiwan aid, as well as border security funding, have all been floated as add-ons to a possible Israel aid package.

  • "We need to get Ukraine done, we need to get a supplemental for Israel. There's some talk about Taiwan, there's some talk about the border," he said, noting that the Israel aid would provide "a pretty strong incentive" to vote for the whole package.
  • Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also told reporters there is "discussion" about packaging the four together, saying it would be a "good package."

Between the lines: House Republicans have soured on aid to Ukraine, but the GOP has pushed hard for additional funding to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and shore up Taiwan's security.

What we're hearing: A senior House Democrat, speaking on the conversation of anonymity, confirmed that packaging the four items together has come up in conversations among Democrats – but cautioned that those plans are far from concrete.

  • The lawmaker said there is "not clarity on [including] all or some in a package," adding that while pairing Israel and Ukraine seems "obvious," the other two may be "more challenging."
  • "Talking to some of my Republican colleagues, they seem to say that they want to do something in a big, one-shot way," said Rep. Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.), McCaul's Democratic counterpart on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
  • "I think everything's on the table," Meeks added. "Anything could happen."

The other side: "I don't think that's a very good idea," said House Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

  • "People that have different opinions on those other things – and I say this as somebody who supports Ukrainian aid – feel like you're jamming them, trying to force them."
  • "I think we can take action on Israel right now, I don't think we need to yolk it to something more complicated," said China Select Committee Chair Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) – though he added that Ukraine and border security is an "obvious compromise."
  • Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) noted that House Republicans have made it a priority to pass single-issue bills: "We as a conference decided long ago [to] let things stand on their own two feet."
  • "I would be opposed to cobbling together all of these different issues," said Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.), a Freedom Caucus member who sits on the Appropriations Committee.

The intrigue: One Jewish Democrat told Axios that lawmakers shouldn't let the desire to pass as many supplementals as possible get in the way of assisting Israel.

  • "I don't have a problem with" pairing Israel and Ukraine aid, said Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.). "But, obviously, if that jeopardizes Israeli funding then I'm for separating them."

The bottom line: Lawmakers in both parties said it's mostly a moot issue as long as the House is without a speaker – a vacancy House Republicans hope to resolve later this week.

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