WASHINGTON– While the Senate negotiates President Biden’s supplemental national security package, Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives on Thursday drew red lines that could make the package harder to pass.
Progressives are increasingly critical of U.S. military aid to Israel while conservatives are pushing for stricter enforcement at the southern border.
Biden proposed $105 billion in national security funding in October that included military aid for Israel and military aid for Ukraine, along with more funding for law enforcement on the southern border.
With the House of Representatives and Senate both closely divided, a compromise on Biden’s proposed national security package has eluded lawmakers since October. And now that proposal faces even stronger opposition with criticism from both the left and the right.
Both Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have insisted that increased military aid to Israel must be paired with more funding for Ukraine. Biden threatened to veto the bill Republicans passed in November to provide only Israel with more aid and Schumer called the bill “it’s dead almost before it’s born” in the Democratic Senate.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Wa., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, on Thursday emphasized the need to put conditions on increased military aid for Israel.
“It’s very important that Israel follow the international laws of war and I don’t believe that they are right now,” said Jayapal after a House subcommittee hearing on immigration. “I do not think that the United States should be funding any offensive aid that is assisting Israel unless they are abiding by those laws. I would support conditions to funding aid to Israel.”
However, Jayapal said she would not use her position as Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to “pressure” members of the caucus to adopt her position.
As part of the proposed national security funding package, Biden asked Congress for $14.3 billion in additional funding for Israel, but only if the funding is paired with increased funding for Ukraine. So far, the Biden administration has not agreed to put conditions on the additional military aid to Israel.
Progressives like Jayapal and Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. are demanding that the Israeli government commit to an immediate ceasefire and that increased funding be conditioned on a ceasefire.
In the months after Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, which killed 1200 Israelis, the ensuing conflict in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza Ministry of Health Officials. Recently, South Africa accused Israel in the International Court of Justice of committing genocide against Palestinians, which Israel has denied.
Republicans in the House largely agree with Biden on increased funding to Israel without conditions, and overwhelmingly supported a bill that passed the House in November that would increase military aid for Israel by cutting Internal Revenue Service funding. But several GOP members are skeptical of increased funding to Ukraine and would condition their support for Biden’s national security proposal on stricter changes to immigration policy. The Senate failed to take up that bill.
“Israel is a different matter, they are our longest ally in the region and our greatest ally in the region,” Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla, said outside the House Rayburn building. “I don’t care what Joe Biden thinks, quite frankly. When it comes to Ukraine, secure the border. You do that, then we can talk about Ukraine.”
In Biden’s proposal, the President requested an additional $6 billion from Congress to hire border agents, asylum officers, and install more inspection machines. But Republicans want much more action from Biden to stop migrants from entering the country.
“Funding is not our problem,” Donalds continued. “We have a policy and execution problem at the southern border. Joe Biden can reverse his policies today.”
Between October 2022 and September of 2023, more than 3 million people attempted to cross the southern border. Over half a million migrants were expelled under the Trump-era Title 42 policy. The Biden administration ended the policy in May 2023, only to replace it with a stricter policy that bars migrants from entry if they do not request refugee status in another country before entering the United States.