Secretaries in Biden’s Cabinet Urge Fractious Congress to Dispatch Aid to Israel and Ukraine

by Joshua Brown
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Biden administration's emergency aid proposal

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are set to argue before a Senate panel on Tuesday that it is imperative for the United States to extend immediate financial assistance to both Israel and Ukraine. They will make this case amidst a legislative impasse concerning the administration’s extensive $105 billion emergency aid proposal aimed at addressing crises in these countries and beyond.

Though President Joe Biden’s Cabinet members will present their arguments to a largely sympathetic Senate—where a majority of Democrats and a significant number of Republicans are in favor of joint aid to Israel and Ukraine—the proposal faces significant hurdles in the House of Representatives. Here, new Speaker Mike Johnson has suggested eliminating the Ukraine aid to focus solely on Israel and intends to finance it by reducing allocations to the Internal Revenue Service.

The dramatically scaled-down House version, which is expected to cost upwards of $14 billion, has already met stiff opposition from Senate Democrats. This resistance exerts pressure on Senate Republicans, who generally support the aid to Ukraine but are increasingly wary due to rising intra-party concerns. The discord between the chambers of Congress suggests challenges ahead, particularly as both Israel and Ukraine are engaged in enduring, high-stakes conflicts that could have global repercussions.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) emphasized that the United States is at a critical juncture, noting the challenges to democracy and freedom worldwide. He urged his Republican colleagues to avoid retreating into isolationism, particularly as Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, seeks to re-establish its position on the global stage and as Hamas aims for the complete eradication of Israel.

In anticipation of Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced that she, along with the committee’s leading Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, is crafting legislation that supports aid for both Israel and Ukraine, in line with the President’s request. The proposal from the White House also comprises financial aid for Taiwan, facing challenges from China, and additional funds to manage the surge in migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has vehemently endorsed the idea of combined aid for Israel and Ukraine. He recently hosted Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, at a Kentucky event where he called for “swift and decisive action.”

As lawmakers reconvened in the capital, several Senate Republicans who back aid to Ukraine expressed uncertainty over how to proceed, given that some are also negotiating additional border security measures, which might attract further Republican support for the aid package.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota indicated his willingness to consider alternative approaches, though he remains supportive of combined aid. Meanwhile, Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has expressed that she is not particular about the mechanism, as long as aid is dispatched to Ukraine.

Nevertheless, a growing faction of Senate Republicans are joining House Republicans in questioning or opposing the provision of aid to Ukraine. Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio has been notably outspoken, criticizing the Biden administration for its lack of a clear strategy in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.

Speaker Johnson revealed in a Fox News interview that any House legislation would counterbalance the aid through cuts to IRS funding, citing fiscal stability as a paramount concern for the United States. This proposal drew immediate censure from Democratic leaders on tax-related committees.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre labeled the House’s version of the bill as a “nonstarter,” warning against politicizing the aid, which could jeopardize longstanding relations with key allies.

Contributions to this report were made by Big Big News reporters Seung Min Kim, Fatima Hussein, and Tara Copp.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Biden administration’s emergency aid proposal

What is the main point of contention in the U.S. Congress regarding the emergency aid proposal?

The primary area of disagreement lies in whether to provide aid to both Israel and Ukraine or to focus solely on Israel. While the Senate largely supports joint aid, the House, led by new Speaker Mike Johnson, proposes eliminating Ukraine aid and reducing Internal Revenue Service allocations to fund Israel.

Who are the key players advocating for the aid package in the Senate?

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are making the case for immediate aid to both countries. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray are also prominent advocates for the aid package.

What is the stance of Senate Republicans on the aid proposal?

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell forcefully advocates for tying aid for Ukraine and Israel together. However, a growing faction within the Senate Republicans is questioning or opposing the aid to Ukraine, making the party’s stance less unified.

What alternative funding mechanism has been proposed by the House?

The House has proposed to finance the aid to Israel by making cuts to the Internal Revenue Service. This move has met with immediate opposition, particularly from Democratic leaders on tax-related committees.

How has the White House responded to the House’s proposal?

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has labeled the House’s version of the bill as a “nonstarter,” warning that politicizing the aid could jeopardize the United States’ relations with key allies.

Are there any additional elements included in the White House’s original request for aid?

Yes, the original White House request also includes financial support for Taiwan as it faces challenges from China and additional funds to manage the surge in migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

What are the broader global implications cited for supporting aid to Israel and Ukraine?

The article points out that both Israel and Ukraine are engaged in long-term conflicts that could have worldwide repercussions. Additionally, there is a broader narrative concerning the challenges to democracy and freedom around the world.

What steps are Senate Republicans taking to possibly attract more party members to vote for the aid package?

Some Senate Republicans are negotiating additional border security measures that could be included in the aid package, in an attempt to attract further Republican support.

More about Biden administration’s emergency aid proposal

  • U.S. Foreign Aid Policies
  • Division in U.S. Congress
  • Role of the Internal Revenue Service in Funding
  • Biden Administration’s Stance on Foreign Aid
  • Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Background and Current Status
  • Israel-Palestine Conflict: Overview
  • Taiwan-China Relations
  • U.S.-Mexico Border Issues
  • Senate Appropriations Committee
  • House Ways and Means Committee

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