Former Georgia Republican Congressman Doug Collins has warned that Congress will be in a “difficult situation” trying to address the ongoing fighting in Israel while the House speakership remains vacant.
House Republicans have been searching for their next speaker this past week after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) brought forward and successfully passed a motion to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership. On Saturday, amid this vacancy, numerous fighters of the Palestinian Hamas terrorist group breached the Gaza Strip blockade in a coordinated surprise attack on southern Israel.
In an interview with NTD News’ “Capitol Report” on Monday, Mr. Collins said the ongoing fighting in Israel could compel House Republicans to act quickly to choose the next speaker, and warned that delays would slow the process of appropriating new aid to Israel.
“I hate to say that we took something like this to expedite the process, but I think it could,” Mr. Collins said of the speakership vacancy and the rising death toll in Israel.
The Republican-controlled House could vote for a new speaker by Wednesday, but the process could drag on into next week if no candidate is able to win the support of 218 members.
“If they can’t guarantee that then it’s going to drag out past the weekend. And that is putting the House and the Congress in a very difficult situation because they can’t pass anything,” Mr. Collins explained. “They cannot put, you know, even if you want to get Israel aid to be on the floor, they can’t put that on the floor.”
Mr. Collins assessed that the U.S. foreign policy focus has shifted toward the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, and the potential for China to invade Taiwan. At the same time, he said the United States has lost focus on “the real true issues of the Middle East.”
“We basically let Iran, Afghanistan, and that whole Middle Eastern cauldron just go away and not talk about it,” he said.
Israel and Ukraine Aid are ‘Two Separate Things’: Collins
Mr. Collins argued that Congress should consider new rounds of support for Israel as a separate issue from the military aid the United States has given to the Ukrainian government in its ongoing war with Russia.
“Ukraine is, I think, a different story,” Mr. Collins told NTD News.
While most Republicans have expressed support for Israel following the Saturday attacks, the party has been sharply divided in terms of support for Ukraine.
Mr. Gaetz was among several Republicans who opposed more U.S. spending to fund the Ukrainian military. As he brought forward his motion to oust Mr. McCarthy from the speakership, Mr. Gaetz accused his Republican colleague of cutting a “secret side deal” to pass new rounds of U.S. funding for Ukraine.
Last month, 28 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the Biden administration, indicating they would not support new rounds of aid for Ukraine at least until the administration could provide details on where the aid has gone, what progress Ukrainian forces have seen in the past six months of fighting, and what the administration would define as victory in Ukraine. Mr. Collins reiterated some of those same concerns in his own comments about U.S. support for Ukraine.
“I think there’s a lot that’s been on now almost the two years that are very much concerning to what is the actual [U.S. spending on Ukraine] going for,” Mr. Collins said. “Do we have a plan? Is there some organizational structure that we need to deal with, with the billions that we’re actually sending there?”
Divisions over Ukraine aid and Israel aid could play into the deliberations House Republicans face when voting for the next House speaker.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have both launched bids for the speakership.
Mr. Jordan recently joined 116 other House Republicans who voted against approving another $300 million in aid to Ukraine. Mr. Scalise joined 100 other House Republicans and 210 House Democrats to vote in favor of the Ukraine aid package.
Following the attacks in Israel, Mr. Jordan said his first priority if elected as the House speaker would be to bring a new resolution of U.S. support for Israel. Mr. Scalise has also said the Israeli people “have our full support and our prayers.”
It remains to be seen whether members of Congress will pursue new rounds of U.S. aid for Israel after the next House speaker is selected. Mr. Collins predicted proponents of additional aid for Ukraine could tie that policy preference to moves to allocate new funding to support Israel.
“I think some who want the Ukrainian money may now try to tie it to Israel money,” he said.