Oct 24, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House GOP scrutinizes Biden's aid to Palestinians

A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid enters the Gaza Strip from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing on Oct. 21. Photo: Eyad Baba/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-led House Oversight Committee is pressing the Biden administration on its plans to make sure humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank isn't diverted to Hamas or other terrorist groups.

Why it matters: Investigations are one of the few ways in which House members can work around a speaker vacancy that otherwise has hamstrung their ability to respond to the escalating Israel-Hamas war.

  • Members in both parties have cited emergency appropriations to support Israel as a key motivator for quickly elevating a new speaker — though so far, Republicans remain mired in chaos without a clear path forward.

Driving the news: President Biden last week announced plans to send $100 million in humanitarian assistance — including clean water, food and medical care — to Palestinian civilians.

  • The president has stressedhe would suspend the aid if Hamas tries to take control of it.

The details: In a letter to USAID administrator Samantha Power, Republicans on the oversight panel led by chair James Comer (R-Ky.) requested that by Nov. 7 the agency provide materials showing how it has assessed the risks that aid could be diverted.

  • "It is vital to fully account for U.S. funds intended for humanitarian purposes to ensure they do not directly or indirectly fund terrorism," the GOP lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by Axios.
  • Among the documents requested are any reports since 2020 detailing aid that was or could be diverted by terrorist groups and the assessments of a USAID body that oversees risk management.

What they're saying: "We have been clear that any interference by Hamas will jeopardize the continuation of that life-saving assistance," a USAID spokesperson told Axios.

  • The spokesperson said all parties involved in the process undergo "extensive vetting and oversight procedures" and that USAID takes "every precaution to safeguard all U.S. taxpayer-supported humanitarian assistance for its intended purpose."
  • Those safeguards include requiring partnered organizations to receive certifications affirming compliance with anti-terrorism laws, regular USAID inspector general audits and close cooperation with Israeli authorities, the spokesperson said.

The latest: Amid pressure from U.S. officials, Israel agreed to allow truck convoys into Gaza to deliver the aid despite Hamas continuing to hold hundreds of Israeli hostages.

  • The flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza hit a snag Tuesday as 20 trucks were unable to transport aid to the region.
  • Asked about the delay, Biden said the deliveries of aid are "not fast enough."

Zoom in: The aid sent to Gaza so far has not included fuel, which aid groups say is needed to keep generators going at hospitals after Israel cut electricity in the enclave.

  • Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Tuesday that "fuel won't enter Gaza" and claimed that "Hamas uses it for operational needs."
  • Amid UN warnings about the need for fuel in the region, however, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday, "We're going to continue to push for fuel to get in."
  • "We certainly understand Israeli concerns about the possibility for Hamas to abscond with fuel and use it for their own purposes," Kirby said. "There's a balance here that has to be achieved. Obviously we haven't achieved it yet."
Go deeper