U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, speaks with reporters as he returns to his office at the U.S. Capitol Building, Feb. 05, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Spurred by Iran attack, House will vote on long-delayed foreign aid package for Israel and other US allies



Spurred by Iran attack, House will vote on long-delayed foreign aid package for Israel and other US allies

U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, speaks with reporters as he returns to his office at the U.S. Capitol Building, Feb. 05, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The House will vote on sending approximately $14 billion in aid to Israel and other U.S. allies, Speaker Mike Johnson said on Monday, ending a months-long holdup of foreign assistance passed by the Senate.

The upcoming vote is the latest ripple effect of Iran’s attack on Israel this weekend. Johnson, a Republican, has agreed with Democratic colleagues that Israel should receive the aid — though the parties continue to blame each other for delaying its passage and undermining Israel’s security.

“We know that the world is watching us to see how we react,” Johnson said, according to media reports. “We have terrorists and tyrants and terrible leaders around the world like Putin and Xi and in Iran, and they’re watching to see if America will stand up for its allies and our interests around the globe — and we will.”

The Democratic-led Senate passed a $95 billion bill in February to deliver aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, but it hit a roadblock in the Republican-led House, where some members of Johnson’s party objected to delivering aid to Ukraine and giving President Joe Biden a legislative victory. Johnson had passed a standalone Israel aid bill in the House.

But late Monday, Johnson said he would break the Senate bill up into its component parts and vote on each separately — including separate bills on Ukraine, Israel and Asia-Pacific aid. The bills still essentially total the sum of the Senate bill and can be passed through reconciliation.

Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who is the House majority leader, cleared the schedule to accelerate an aid package when Congress reconvenes on Tuesday.

Scalise called Netanyahu to tell him the good news, and, according to Netanyahu’s office, signaled his disagreement with Biden, who has asked Netanyahu to be cautious about how and whether he  retaliates against Iran.

Scalise “called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and expressed support for any decision that Israel makes in light of the Iranian attack,” the prime minister’s office said on Monday. “Scalise informed the Prime Minister of his initiative to advance in Congress, in the coming days, a series of measures against Iran and for Israel; Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked him.”

In recent days. House Democrats have lashed out at Johnson for delaying the aid. “You and your party are the reason vital aid to Israel isn’t already there!” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Jewish Democrat and pro-Israel stalwart, tweeted on Saturday.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Jewish Democrat, got 91 House members — including at least one prominent Republican, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who chairs the House Middle East subcommittee — to sign a letter to Johnson urging him to bring the Senate bill to the House floor.

“This weekend, the Iranian regime launched hundreds of drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles directly against our key, democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel,” the letter said. “Time is of the essence, and we must ensure critical aid is delivered to Israel and our other democratic allies facing threats from our adversaries around the world.”

A senior Biden administration official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that drafting a new bill would be a waste of time and that the Senate version “is still our preference.”

“It passed the Senate overwhelmingly, as you know, and would have a much quicker path to the president’s desk if the speaker were to put it on the floor instead of trying to devise new legislation,” the official said on Sunday. “For what it’s worth, more than half of the Israel funding in the Senate-passed bill (which the president had requested) would go to air defenses like what Israel used last night. And of course the Ukraine funding within that bill is urgently needed.”

Aid to Israel has also faced opposition in the House from close to 60 Democrats who called on Biden to withhold aid to Israel until it investigates the deadly strike on aid workers from the World Central Kitchen. But where opposition to Israel assistance stands now is unclear.

At least one of the signatories of the April 5 letter calling for Biden to suspend aid to Israel, California Rep. Sara Jacobs, who is Jewish, signed the April 14 letter spearheaded by Gottheimer, calling on Johnson to rush aid to Israel. Other progressive critics of Israel have been relatively silent.

In a rare joint statement on Sunday, two partisan Jewish groups urged House passage of emergency aid for Israel. The statement, by the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Democratic Majority for Israel, did not recommend a bill, but referred favorably to the Senate joint Israel-Ukraine package.

“President Biden, Speaker Johnson, Leader [Chuck] Schumer, Minority Leader [Mitch] McConnell and House Minority Leader  [Hakeem] Jeffries all support much needed aid for Israel. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass that aid months ago,” the statement said. “Democratic Majority for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition both believe the House of Representatives must also pass an emergency supplemental that can be signed by the President.”

Another past opponent of Senate aid legislation — Donald Trump — also gave mixed signals on Israel at a rally in Pennsylvania.

At the rally on Saturday, Trump said, “America prays for Israel. We send our absolute support to everyone in harm’s way.” He also claimed, as he has regarding Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, that Iran;s attack “would not have happened if we were in office, you know that, they know that, everybody knows that.”

But within minutes, the crowd, including a number of people standing on stage with Trump, were chanting “Genocide Joe,” a phrase coined by far-left critics of Biden’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

It was not clear what prompted the chant — it came right after Trump said Pennsylvanioa voters would “fire” Biden — but Trump affirmed the chanters, saying multiple times, “They’re not wrong.”

A spokesman for Trump’s campaign did not return an inquiry about what the former president meant by “They’re not wrong.” In an interview last month with a right-leaning Israeli outlet, Trump said Israel “has to be very careful because you’re losing a lot of the world.”

But later, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Karoline Leavitt, said he was standing behind Israel.

“President Trump was made aware of the attack on Israel last night on our way to his rally in Pennsylvania,” she said Sunday on Fox and Friends. “And he made it a priority to ensure that those remarks were at the top of his speech to express 100% support for Israel.”

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