US House rejects Israel-only bill, Ukraine-Israel-border bill could be affected

US President Joe Biden supports the Senate Bill. Picture: Mandel Ngan / AFP

US President Joe Biden supports the Senate Bill. Picture: Mandel Ngan / AFP

Published Feb 7, 2024


The United States House of Representatives rejected a Republican-led bill aimed at providing $17.6 billion in assistance to Israel.

This rejection comes as a broader bipartisan bill, which includes aid for Ukraine and increased funding for border security, faces challenges as well.

The vote on the Israel-specific bill, requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, largely fell along party lines.

The vote was 250 to 180, falling short because it was introduced under an expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. While the vote was largely along party lines, 14 Republicans opposed the bill and 46 Democrats supported it.

Aid for Israel, which has been a major recipient of US foreign aid, has historically received bipartisan support.

However, critics viewed the House bill as a tactic by Republicans to divert attention from their opposition to a larger Senate bill, which combines immigration policy changes, border security funding, and emergency aid for Ukraine, Israel, and partners in the Asia Pacific region.

Democratic leaders characterised the Israel bill as a manoeuvre to undermine the comprehensive bipartisan package negotiated by senators over several months.

The waning support among Republicans for the broader bill is believed to have been influenced by pressure from former President Donald Trump, who aims to prevent President Joe Biden, his likely Democratic opponent in the upcoming election, from securing a legislative victory.

Despite Biden's support for the Senate bill, Republican leaders in both the House and Senate expressed scepticism about its passage. Biden reiterated the urgency of providing assistance to Ukraine and urged lawmakers to prioritise the broader bill.

“Every week, every month that passes without new aid to Ukraine means fewer artillery shells, fewer air defence systems, fewer tools for Ukraine to defend itself against this Russian onslaught,” Biden said.

“We can’t walk away now. That’s what Putin’s betting on. Supporting this bill is standing up to Putin. Opposing this bill is playing into his hands.”

The immigration portion of the legislation, Biden added, included the “toughest set of reforms to secure the border ever”.

The failure to pass the Israel-specific bill underscores the ongoing struggle in Congress to allocate security assistance abroad, particularly to Ukraine. While the House previously passed an Israel-only bill, it was not considered in the Senate, where negotiations focused on a more comprehensive security package.

The House's rejection of the Israel bill was swiftly followed by another failed vote, this time against impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, indicating the challenges facing Republican leadership in the chamber.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson had said the Senate bill was "dead on arrival" in the chamber even before it was introduced. And Senate Republican leaders said on Tuesday they did not think the measure would receive enough votes to pass.

"This accomplishes nothing and delays aid getting out to our allies and providing humanitarian relief," said representative Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, urging opposition to the Israel-only bill.

"Our allies are facing existential threats and our friends and foes around the globe are watching, waiting to see how America will respond."