US lawmakers were set to vote Tuesday on a standalone Israel aid bill denounced by critics as a “cynical” bid to thwart a cross-party border security and foreign aid package that would include cash for war-torn Ukraine.
Republicans in the House of Representatives scheduled the vote after the Democratic-led Senate released a bipartisan bill Sunday pairing billions of dollars for Israel and Ukraine with some of the strictest immigration curbs in decades.
But support for that $118 billion package has dwindled, with Donald Trump — who is running for a second White House term — pressuring Republicans to avoid handing President Joe Biden a legislative victory ahead of November’s election.
Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said after the border and foreign aid bill was unveiled that it would be “dead on arrival” if it reached the lower chamber of Congress.
The standalone bill would provide $17.6 billion in military aid for Israel, which is strongly supported by the vast majority of lawmakers in both parties as it responds to the deadly October 7 attacks by Hamas militants.
But Biden threatened has to veto it after sponsoring months of negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators on the larger package.
Biden’s Office of Management and Budget said the Republican “ploy” undermined efforts to secure the US border and support Ukraine against Russian aggression, while denying humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
But Johnson countered at a news conference Tuesday that it was “outrageous and shameful” Biden would suggest vetoing support for Israel “in their hour of greatest need.”
The bill is very unlikely to by approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate, and could even face a rocky ride in the House, where it needs a two-thirds majority.
It is likely to meet opposition from some House Republicans as it does not contain budgetary offsets that conservatives have been pushing for in every spending bill.
One of Johnson’s first actions when he took office in the fall was to shepherd a bill through the House that would have provided $14.3 billion to Israel.
But it included steep cuts to the Internal Revenue Service, which Biden opposed.
The ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus blasted Johnson for “surrendering” to pressure for an even larger package which is not offset by cuts.
House Democratic leaders called the bill a “nakedly obvious and cynical attempt” to undermine the larger package, which ties the Israel cash to $60 billion aid for Ukraine and $20 billion for border security but is deadlocked in Congress.
“Unfortunately, the standalone legislation introduced by House Republicans over the weekend, at the 11th hour without notice or consultation, is not being offered in good faith,” House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a letter to colleagues.