WASHINGTON — In a closely-watched and contentious vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $14.3 billion Israel military aid bill by a margin of 226-196, primarily along party lines. The bill, introduced by House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, faced opposition from most Democrats who objected to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cuts included in the legislation. This comes as they push for a more comprehensive package that includes aid for Ukraine.
Despite the partisan divide, it is important to note that many Democrats who voted against the bill emphasized their continued support for military aid to Israel. Some have begun to call for a “humanitarian pause” in the ongoing campaign in Gaza. Meanwhile, on Thursday, November 2, 2023, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois became the first senator to call for a ceasefire in light of the high civilian death toll.
The Senate’s stance on this bill remains uncertain as they are working on assembling a bipartisan package. This proposed legislation aims to combine Israel’s military aid with additional support for Ukraine, aligning with the White House’s $106 billion defense spending request.
The bill also includes $3.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants and loans, allowing Israel to purchase additional weapons from U.S. and Israeli defense contractors. A noteworthy provision in the bill allows the State Department to waive the usual congressional notification requirement for Foreign Military Financing. Moreover, it allocates $850 million for the procurement of additional munitions and ammunition for Israel.
The White House has expressed concern over the civilian casualties, collateral damage, and the approach taken by Israel in the conflict. However, they have not set “red lines” for Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza, according to White House National Security spokesman John Kirby.
Human Rights Watch’s Washington director, Sarah Yager, condemned the suffering of civilians due to the stoppage of food, water, and electricity, labeling it as a war crime by Israel. Yager emphasized that while warnings have been issued to the civilian population in Gaza, many Palestinians have nowhere to go.
Despite the controversy, a bipartisan majority in Congress supports providing additional aid to Israel. Some centrist Democrats have called for a “humanitarian pause” to ensure the life-saving assistance reaches Gaza, where Israel has restricted access to food, water, fuel, and medical supplies.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, supports Israel aid as part of a broader package that includes Ukraine funding. She has also called for a humanitarian pause in Gaza and the removal of the $14.3 billion in IRS cuts from the bill.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, both Democrats, have joined the call for a humanitarian pause to enhance relief efforts and reduce the impact of Israel’s military campaign on civilians in Gaza.
Smith expressed concerns that the humanitarian crisis could become a fertile ground for terrorist recruitment by Hamas and other extremist organizations, potentially expanding the conflict to other parts of the Middle East.