WASHINGTON ― The House on Thursday passed 226-196 a $14.3 billion Israel military aid bill mainly along party lines, with most Democrats objecting to the Internal Revenue Service cuts in the bill as they push to take up a larger package that also includes Ukraine assistance.

Democrats who voted against the bill stressed they still support military aid to Israel, even as several on the Armed Services Committee are starting to call for a humanitarian pause in the campaign in Gaza. Meanwhile, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, became the first senator on Thursday to call for a ceasefire amid the high civilian death toll.

The Senate is unlikely to take up the bill as it continues to assemble a bipartisan package that would wrap the Israel military aid with additional support for Ukraine and some funding for the Indo-Pacific in alignment with the White House’s $106 billion defense spending request.

The Israel aid bill, introduced by House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, allocates $4.4 billion to replenish U.S. weapons and munitions stocks sent to Israel and $4 billion for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems.

“The funding will include everything requested by the Israelis,” Granger said on the House floor ahead of the vote.

Granger’s bill also allocates $3.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants and loans allowing Israel to buy additional weapons from U.S. and Israeli defense contractors. A provision in the bill allows the State Department to waive the usual congressional notification requirement for Foreign Military Financing. Additionally, it allocates $850 million to procure additional munitions and ammunition for Israel.

Israel is rapidly burning through munitions as it continues to bomb the 2.2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, killing roughly 9,000 people and wounding thousands more, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel launched its campaign following Hamas’ massacre of approximately 1,400 Israelis and abduction of 240 hostages, per the Israel Defense Forces.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said Friday the U.S. is “not drawing red lines” for Israel in its ground invasion of Gaza.

“Since the very beginning, we have had and will continue to have conversations with them about the manner in which they’re doing this,” he said. “And we have not been shy about expressing our concerns over civilian casualties, collateral damage, and the approach that they might choose to take.”

Sarah Yager, the Washington director at Human Rights Watch, said “the suffering of civilians due to the stoppage of food, water, and electricity weeks ago is unacceptable, and constitutes a war crime on the part of Israel.”

“While warnings have been given to the civilian population in Gaza, there is literally nowhere for many Palestinians to go,” she added.

Still, the overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress supports additional aid to Israel. Some centrist Democrats have simultaneously called for a humanitarian pause to allow life-saving aid to flow into Gaza as Israel cuts off food, water, fuel and medical supplies to the besieged enclave.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, noted before the vote she supports Israel aid as part of a broader package that includes Ukraine funding. But she is also calling for a humanitarian pause in Gaza and the removal of the $14.3 billion in Internal Revenue Service cuts from the bill.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., became the latest Democrat on the Armed Services Committee Thursday to call for such a pause to “allow relief to reach civilians and enhance the critical work of obtaining an immediate, unconditional release of all hostages.”

And Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, called for a humanitarian pause on Saturday and said “more efforts must also be taken to reduce the impacts of Israel’s military campaign on the civilians in Gaza.”

Smith added the humanitarian crisis “will without question serve as fertile terrorist recruiting ground for Hamas and other extremist organizations, while also increasing the risk the conflict would expand to other parts of the Middle East.”

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

In Other News
Load More