Stage Set for Congressional Showdown Over Joint Spending Bill for Ukraine and Israel
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America's top military leader and its chief diplomat called for a $100 billion emergency aid package on Capitol Hill Tuesday, making the case that money is urgently needed to back both Israel and Ukraine.
Many House Republicans insist those conflicts should be addressed separately, but in the Senate, there's bipartisan support for the joint request.
The Biden administration stresses these conflicts are all connected in terms of protecting U.S. national security, so they say our response must be as well.
"For our adversaries, be they states or non-states, this is all one fight, and we have to respond in a way that recognizes that. If we start to peel off pieces of this package, they'll see that, they'll understand we are playing whack-a-mole, while they cooperate increasingly," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Blinken said the next move from the U.S. will be a critical factor in what happens next.
"What happens in Ukraine, what happens in the Middle East, also matters for the Indo-Pacific," he told lawmakers.
The Biden administration wants Congress to pass an emergency funding package that would include $61.4 billion for Ukraine and $14.3 billion for Israel. There's also money in the package earmarked for humanitarian aid, Indo-Pacific security assistance, and U.S. border protection.
"We need to address all these priorities as part of one package. Because the reality is these issues are all connected and they are all urgent. The Chinese government is watching how we respond to Putin. Putin hopes Hamas will give him an opening and distract the world from his brutal invasion, and all our adversaries are watching to see if we have vision to see how all the crises are related and resolve to come together and respond forcefully to them," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
While there's bipartisan support in the Senate for joint funding, House Republicans, led by a new speaker, have already released an Israel-only funding bill, saying the two conflicts should be divided.
"We have a responsibility of stewardship, responsibility over the precious treasure of the American people, and we have to make sure the White House is providing the people with some accountability for the dollars. And we want to know what the objective there is, what is the end game in Ukraine," House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said during an interview with Fox News.
Meanwhile, attacks on U.S. forces serving in both Syria and Iraq also came up in Tuesday's hearing.
"If this doesn't stop, then we will respond, and so we maintain the right to respond. We have the capability to do that and we will respond at a time and place of our choosing," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers.
Senators also invited DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to testify about the money earmarked for border security. He was unavailable for Tuesday's hearing, but will appear before the Appropriations Committee next week.
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