Feb 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Democrats in "tough spot" with GOP's new Israel bill

Mike Johnson and Hakeem Jeffries.

Speaker Mike Johnson and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

House Democrats found themselves squeezed on Saturday by Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-La.) plans to hold a vote on an Israel aid package that excludes the IRS cuts they protested last fall.

Why it matters: The bill is still poised to pick up new Democratic votes in the House, which may put pressure on the Senate to vote on it rather than pursue their bill to also fund Ukraine, Taiwan and border security.

Driving the news: Johnson announced that the House will take up a "clean" Israel aid bill next week that would not be offset by equal cuts to the IRS.

  • That's in contrast to the supplemental bill House Republicans passed in November with support from just 12 Democrats, and which Senate Democrats blocked from consideration.
  • "Democrats made clear that their primary objection to the original House bill was with its offsets," Johnson wrote in a letter to House Republicans.
  • "The Senate will no longer have excuses ... against swift passage of this critical support for our ally."

What we're hearing: Several staunchly pro-Israel House Democrats who voted against the supplemental bill in November over the IRS cuts said Saturday they will support the new package.

  • "I would definitely vote for a stand-alone Israel aid bill without poison pills," Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) told Axios.
  • Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said in a post on X, "I'm a yes." He aded that the bill "does not contain provisions I would like to see, including aid for [Ukraine]. But I normally vote based on what's in the bill, rather than what's not in the bill."
  • “There is no question the United States must support our ally Israel, and I will vote yes for the clean supplemental appropriation,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) said in a statement.

The other side: The bill could still prove divisive with House Democrats due to its lack of humanitarian assistance for Palestinian civilians.

  • A senior House Democrat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, predicted the exclusion of that aid will be a deal-breaker for a "good number" of Democrats.
  • Of their own vote, the senior lawmaker said: "More than likely a no without humanitarian aid, but no guarantees even in that instance. The details would matter."
  • Another House Democrat told Axios the bill puts them in a "tough spot" politically but said they are "going to have to vote for it" despite the risk of alienating the Democratic base.

Between the lines: Another complicating factor is the blow the bill could deal to Senate supplemental talks, which many lawmakers see as the last hope to pass significant funding for Ukraine.

  • Senate negotiators are expected to roll out heir comprehensive national security bill this weekend, which aims to pair the Ukraine funding that many Republicans revile with concessions to the GOP on border policy.
  • Johnson is "try[ing] to stymie the border bill and mess with the Ukraine funding," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who, after expressing support for the House bill in an earlier interview, told Axios: "I'm not sure where I'll be."
  • House Republicans have grown increasingly hostile to the Senate's comprehensive bill, and even some Democrats have suggested the only path forward is to pass its component parts separately.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional quotes from lawmakers.

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