The physical fighting between Israel and Hamas may be taking place in the Middle East, but the political fighting on this issue is just getting started in Washington.
The Biden administration has repeatedly urged Congress to get a foreign aid bill passed soon, which it says is needed for American national security. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are echoing those calls in Congress today as they testify at a Senate hearing.
“We now stand at a moment where many are again making the bet that the United States is too divided or distracted at home to stay the course,” Blinken said before a mostly supportive Senate committee. “That is what is at stake.”
Austin added that "the cost and the threats to the United States will only grow. We must not give our friends, our rivals, or our foes any reason to doubt America’s resolve."
The new House speaker, Republican Mike Johnson, revealed his plan this week to assist Israel. It's a proposal that does have some similarities with what President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats want, but key differences remain.
For instance, both Democrats and Republicans want to help Israel to the tune of around $14 billion. However, House Republicans would like to offset that spending with cuts to the IRS — which received a major boost in funding several months ago, against Republicans' wishes.
Democrats have said they will never vote on that issue because IRS funding helps hire more staff, generate more audits and, in turn, bring in more revenue for the federal government.
What the White House and Senate Democrats want is a much larger package that still helps Israel, but also provides an additional $61.4 billion in funding for Ukraine, $7.4 billion for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region, and roughly $14 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border.
At the moment, House Republicans want aid to Israel to be dealt with on its own. Funding for Ukraine has become more controversial in conservative circles, with many scrutinizing how much money has already been sent to Eastern Europe.
Look for this issue to be a moving political football in the coming weeks. It's also important to remember that a funding bill must pass before Nov. 17 to avoid a government shutdown, meaning these issues could be tied into a larger piece of legislation to keep the government open.
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