Updated Feb 6, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Democrats try to tamp down divisions on GOP's Israel bill

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Top House Democrats made a forceful case against Republicans' $17.6 billion Israel aid package in a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The bill, which President Biden has threatened to veto, will need substantial support from Democrats votes to pass the House.

  • The bill is being put forth as an alternative to the Senate's emergency funding bill for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and border security.
  • It's coming up under a process that requires a two-thirds majority to pass and is on track to fall short of that threshold.

What we're hearing: Committee ranking members and other Democratic leaders argued "strongly" against the bill at their weekly caucus meeting, according to several members who were in the room.

  • House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), according to members, accused Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) of playing politics with the bill and refusing to work with Biden.
  • "He believes this is a ploy, which it is – it's a cynical political ploy," former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said of Jeffries.
  • House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Jim Himes (D-Conn.) also argued that Israel, unlike Ukraine, has the resources necessary to fight Hamas for several months, according to two members.

What they're saying: Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said in a letter to House Democrats on Tuesday that the bill "is not being offered in good faith."

  • "It is a nakedly obvious and cynical attempt by MAGA extremists to undermine the possibility of a comprehensive, bipartisan funding package that addresses America's national security challenges in the Middle East, Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific region and throughout the world."
  • The three Democratic leaders announced they "will vote NO" on the bill.

The other side: The bill is poised to get support beyond the dozen Democrats who voted for an Israel aid bill in November that included cuts to the IRS.

  • Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) have all said they will vote for the new version of the bill after opposing the earlier package.
  • "There's no question that this is a cynical ploy," Manning told Axios. But, she added, "I support aid for Israel, and I hope we can move forward and also get humanitarian aid, I hope we can get aid for Ukraine."
  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the de facto leader of the informal Jewish members group and another opponent of the bill in November, spoke in favor of the new bill in the caucus meeting, according to two members.

What we're watching: Republicans are also facing defections on their side, with several right-wing hardliners voicing opposition to the bill due to its lack of spending offsets.

  • Johnson told reporters if the bill fails on Tuesday, "plan B" is to bring it up next week under a process that only requires a simple majority.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest.

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