The attempt to swiftly approve an emergency defense spending package through Congress has hit a snag, with significant pushback against new Speaker Mike Johnson’s proposal. Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, seeks to isolate Israel funding from that of Ukraine and offset the $14.3 billion allocated to Israel by cutting from the IRS budget. However, Democratic Senators in control express skepticism about the feasibility of this approach.
The fate of Johnson’s controversial proposition in the Republican-majority House is uncertain, with a narrow four-seat majority. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.) unequivocally dismissed the idea, labeling it a “non-starter” and a “poison pill.” Senate Republican leaders, including Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Roger Wicker, express reluctance to separate funding for Israel, Ukraine, and the Indo-Pacific, emphasizing the interconnected nature of these national security priorities.
Senator Wicker, acknowledging room for discussion on deficit offsets, maintains that bundling the security priorities together would be the wisest move. However, he remains neutral on the method of reducing the impact on the deficit, suggesting potential offsets within the Inflation Reduction Act.
Senator Graham emphasizes the interconnectedness of national security issues and warns against engaging in partisan disputes over offsets, foreseeing potential delays in emergency military aid. Senator Lisa Murkowski shares concerns about the tight timeframe, emphasizing the challenge of finding substantive offsets for the considerable financial package.
Should aid to Israel proceed without concurrent assistance to Ukraine, Murkowski warns of potential repercussions, stating that Ukraine might face difficulties securing additional U.S. military aid in the future. She supports the Biden administration’s proposal to combine aid for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, and U.S. border security into a single package but remains open to discussions about specific details.
While some unnamed Republican senators express doubts about the House Republican proposal passing Congress, they highlight the unusual nature of offsetting defense spending. Concerns are raised about the potential slowdown of the package due to disputes over offsets.
Despite expected resistance, Senators anticipate Johnson and House GOP colleagues to pursue the measure later in the week. McConnell, advocating for the unity of Israel and Ukraine funding, faces opposition from conservative senators urging a separate approach.
McConnell, aligning with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, stresses the geopolitical significance of supporting Ukraine and Israel together. Schumer insists on passing the president’s supplemental request, emphasizing the clear path forward for funding Israel, Ukraine, the South Pacific, and providing humanitarian aid for Gaza.
Both Senate Republicans and Democrats express reluctance to cut federal programs to offset Israel aid, considering emergency spending exempt from annual spending caps. Senate Democrats argue that cutting the IRS budget, as proposed by House Republicans, could backfire by increasing the deficit through hampering tax compliance enforcement.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin anticipates challenges in finding offsets for the proposed $105 billion emergency assistance package, potentially causing delays in aid distribution. Durbin, emphasizing the urgency of military funds for Ukraine and the Middle East, rejects the notion of delayed debates on funding matters.
Secretaries of Defense and State, Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Biden’s emergency funding requests on Tuesday.