The Biden administration is putting the finishing touches on a foreign aid package that would allocate $100 billion in US taxpayer funds to Ukraine, Israel and other ‘top security priorities,’ according to ABC News, citing two people familiar with the details.
According to the report, the “bulk” of the assistance will go to Ukraine, while roughly $10 billion will go to defense assistance for Israel following the Oct. 7 attack on civilians by Hamas terrorists from Gaza. A small amount is being set aside for border security, aimed at garnering the support of Congressional Republicans (and giving Democrats a 2024 talking point).
While support for Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support in the US Congress and among Americans in general (notwithstanding final consensus on the Gaza hospital blast), assistance for Ukraine has become a sticking point with House Republicans, while the House itself is rudderless due to their failure to elect a new speaker following the ouster of Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
Any request from the White House, though, will need to wait for House lawmakers to elect a new speaker after the ouster of Kevin McCarthy from the post. Any spending measure would need to be taken up by the House first but the chamber is unable to complete any legislative business until Republicans coalesce behind a new speaker.
The sheer scope and ask of the package is likely to invite resistance in the House, where GOP differences on spending cuts and foreign aid have played out in the speaker fight. –Bloomberg
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the leading candidate for speaker, has been hesitant on more Ukraine aid, while conservatives in the House have demanded that an Israel package be separated from any Ukraine aid. Jordan in recent days suggested that any further Ukraine assistance would need to be tied to increased oversight.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Tuesday that he expects the Biden administration to send the $100 billion request by the “end of this week,” and that the aid to Israel would include “military, diplomatic, intelligence and humanitarian aid.”
“We’d like to get the supplemental package moved as quickly as possible because the needs are great in both Israel and Ukraine,” said Schumer.
Deeply worried about ‘scorched earth’
According to ABC News, several Biden administration officials are worried that hardliners in Israel are pushing for a scorched-earth military response that would lead to a large number of civilian casualties (and again, the jury is still out on the Gaza hospital explosion which Israel claims was an errant Hamas rocket).
When asked about discussions, White House spox John Kirby said they aren’t advising the Israeli military on how to operate, and that he expects civilians to be protected.
“Since almost the very, very beginning here, we have been talking about how important it is for democracies, like Israel and the United States, to stand up for the law of war, to respect innocent civilian life, unlike Hamas. So this is a foundational element of the discussions that we’ve had with the Israelis for forever, and we’ll continue to do that going forward,” Kirby said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Following lengthy meetings earlier this week between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Israeli counterpart, the two allies seemed to have reached some kind of consensus. Details of the aid package are now circulating among U.S. officials as Biden is en route to the region.
Budget experts say Israel’s assistance needs aren’t likely to be urgent due to a 2016 agreement that provides Israel $3.8 billion a year over 10 years. More pressing, they say, is Ukraine, which has run out of long-term funding as it seeks to fend off Russia. -ABC News
Pro-Israeli groups have also asked Biden for at least $500 million in grant funding to protect Jewish communities in the US – including synagogues and other community sites, do to alleged threats. It’s unclear if that will be part of Biden’s proposal.