Four Republican senators introduced a bill on Thursday to provide about $14 billion in military assistance to Israel without funding a larger $105 billion defense spending proposal by President Joe Biden.
The Republican bill, dubbed “The Israel Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023,” includes $10.6 billion for assistance to Israel through the Department of Defense (DOD) and provides Israel with another $3.5 billion for foreign military financing. President Biden’s $105 billion defense spending proposal calls for a similar amount of support for Israel but ties that funding to his other priorities, including $61 billion in new aid for Ukraine.
Calls to bolster Israel’s defenses have received broad bipartisan support after Hamas terrorists killed hundreds of civilians in southern Israel on Oct. 7. On the other hand, Republicans are increasingly divided over continued efforts to prop up the Ukrainian military in its ongoing war with neighboring Russia.
“My colleagues and I firmly believe that any aid to Israel should not be used as leverage to send tens of billions of dollars to Ukraine. Any package that does so would result in funds and resources being delayed in Israel’s time of need,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kans.), the bill’s main sponsor, said in a Thursday press statement. “The legislation we’ve introduced provides the aid to Israel requested by the Biden Administration and should be considered by the Senate immediately.”
Sens. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) all co-sponsored the bill to split the proposed spending for Israel from President Biden’s larger funding request.
Mr. Vance said the circumstances surrounding Israel’s conflict with Hamas and Ukraine’s conflict with Russia are unique and “should be handled individually.”
“Misguided attempts to combine them will only delay Israel receiving the support they need,” Mr. Vance added. “Now is not the time to play political games with our most important ally in the Middle East.”
Mr. Marshall, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Vance were among the 28 Republican signatories of a Sept. 21 letter notifying the Biden administration that they would not support the president’s calls for a $24 billion Ukraine defense spending bill. The letter’s signatories raised concerns about problems accounting for past Ukraine-related expenditures and tracking the weapons going to the country, as well as questions about the long-term U.S. policy objectives for the war in Ukraine.
Cruz Wants Israel Aid ‘As Fast As Possible’
Mr. Cruz indicated he’s not necessarily opposed to spending for Ukraine or calls elsewhere in President Biden’s proposal that could help counter Chinese aggression against Taiwan, but insisted support for Israel ought to come first.
“Russia still needs to be defeated. Taiwan still needs to be defended. This bill is about one thing and one thing only: getting our Israeli allies the aid they need, as fast as possible,” Mr. Cruz said.
The Texas Republican argued that tying support for Israel to President Biden’s other spending requests would only serve to delay what support Israel may get.
“The overwhelming majority of the Senate is ready to support an aid package for Israel. The House would readily pass this bill,” Mr. Cruz said, adding, “We should pass Israel aid immediately and then move on to those.”
Senate Republicans Split on Biden’s Bundling
Several other Senate Republicans have expressed mixed views about the various issues represented in President Biden’s $105 billion spending request.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he has no objections to linking Israel and Ukraine aid. In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Mr. McConnell said it would be a “mistake” to pass aid for Israel separate from the Ukraine-related aid.
“I know there are some Republicans in the Senate and maybe more in the House that think Ukraine is somehow different. I view it as all interconnected,” Mr. McConnell added.
Many Republicans are supportive of the $14 billion in spending for Israel but have raised alarm that President Biden’s spending request also includes humanitarian assistance for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. In a Friday press statement, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip could end up becoming a “slush fund” to “resupply” Hamas and said the Biden administration’s request is “dead on arrival.”
President Biden’s spending request also includes about $14 billion to bolster U.S. border security. While many Republicans have raised concerns about border security and faulted the Biden administration’s handling of that issue, some Republicans have expressed skepticism that the additional border security funding will actually address the problem.
“It is not about throwing more money at the border. We’ve got to slow the flow. It’s about changing the policies,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said on Tuesday. “They don’t need a lot more money on the southern border. They need to change the policies to remove the incentives to come across our southern border.”
Democrats are unlikely to accept Republican calls for border policy changes. At a Tuesday press conference, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) insisted the new funding alone would suffice to address the issue and said “we are not for policy changes.”