By Jackson Richman and Joseph Lord
As the war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas intensifies, with the Jewish state initiating a ground operation into Hamas-controlled Gaza over the weekend, Congress is divided over whether to intertwine or separate aid to Israel and Ukraine, which is under attack by Russia.
The Biden administration has requested $14.3 billion in additional assistance to Israel and $61.4 billion in supplemental aid to Ukraine. This is part of a supplemental request totaling $105 billion that also includes $850 million in funding for border security and $2 billion for the Indo-Pacific.
For Ukraine assistance, the administration has requested $44.4 billion in overall military aid. For Israel, the White House has asked for $10.6 billion in air and missile and other defense assistance. The administration is also seeking $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, Israel, and Ukraine.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wants to pair Israel funding with Ukraine assistance.
“I view it as all interconnected,” he told CBS News last week.
In an Oct. 30 speech, Mr. McConnell said that sending assistance to both Ukraine and Israel is about more than the individual conflicts.
“This is a moment for swift and decisive action to prevent further loss of life and to impose real consequences on the tyrants who have terrorized the people of Ukraine and of Israel. And right now, the Senate has a chance to produce supplemental assistance that will help us do exactly that,” he said.
“Enemies abroad will be watching closely and waiting for America to falter. Only our concrete and credible support can deter our adversaries in the future and restore security.”
Mr. McConnell said supporting Israel and supporting Ukraine aren’t mutually exclusive.
“Some say our support for Ukraine comes at the expense of more important priorities. But as I say every time I’ve got the chance, this is a false choice,” he said.
“If Russia prevails, there’s no question that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s appetite for empire will actually extend into NATO, raising the threat to the U.S. trans-Atlantic alliance and the risk of war for us.”Up to this point, Congress has passed five supplemental assistance packages for Ukraine worth about $114 billion in total. That funding includes humanitarian assistance, gifts of military equipment, and funding for the salaries of Ukrainian government officials.
Of that, most of the authorized supplemental aid packages have gone to the Department of Defense, which oversees the military aspect of Ukraine assistance. Another large portion, about a third, has gone to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversees the humanitarian angle of the funding.
However, newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who took up the role last week, said he wants U.S. assistance to Jerusalem and Kyiv kept separate.
“I told the staff at the White House today that our consensus among House Republicans is we need to bifurcate those issues,” he told Fox News last week.
Mr. Johnson, who, except for the first package, has voted against Ukraine aid, said the United States needs to support Ukraine, which Russia invaded in February 2022.
“We can’t allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine, because I don’t believe it would stop there, and it would probably encourage and empower China to perhaps make a move on Taiwan. We have these concerns,” he said.
“We’re not going to abandon them, but we have a responsibility—a stewardship responsibility—over the precious treasure of the American people, and we have to make sure that the White House is providing the people with some accountability for the dollars.”
The most recent aid package to Ukraine, which passed under previous House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as one of his final acts as speaker, provided a relatively small allocation of about $300 million to Ukraine. There were 117 Republicans, more than half of the House GOP conference, who voted against additional funding.
At least nine Senate Republicans have called for Israel and Ukraine assistance to be separate: Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
“These are two separate conflicts, and it would be wrong to leverage support of aid to Israel in attempt to get additional aid for Ukraine across the finish line,” they wrote in an Oct. 19 letter to Mr. McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.) “Furthermore, it would be irresponsible and we should not risk a government shutdown by bundling these priorities together and thus complicating the process and lessening the likelihood of a funding package.”
Mr. Schumer has called for passing President Joe Biden’s supplemental funding request for assistance to both Israel and Ukraine.
When asked by The Epoch Times during the Oct. 30 State Department press briefing whether Congress should pass assistance to Ukraine and Israel together or individually, spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “We think they need to pass both of those priorities.”
Israel, long considered a key U.S. ally in the region, has historically received billions annually from the United States. The Jewish state receives $3.8 billion annually, $3.3 billion of which is military assistance.
However, there also appears to be some sentiment that Congress shouldn’t send assistance to Jerusalem or Kyiv.
“This week, the House will vote on $14.5 billion foreign aid package for Israel, in addition to the $3.8 billion that already passed. I will be a NO vote. Less than 1/3 of the 49,000 people who responded to my poll today support this additional funding. We simply can’t afford it,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“I’m voting NO as well. We are $33 TRILLION in debt, and our wide open border is a national security crisis. How many of those voters were outside the US?” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) wrote on X in support of Mr. Massie’s view.
Finally, in both the House and the Senate, Republicans have become increasingly frustrated with U.S. funding for the conflicts, which they say takes away from more important issues such as securing the border and combatting China.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) told The Epoch Times that Washington should instead focus attention on East Asia, where concerns remain high that China will attempt to conquer Taiwan amid escalating aggression in the South China Sea.