House Democratic leadership lead most of their caucus in voting against a standalone Israel aid bill for the 2nd time in recent months on Tuesday.
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A majority of House Democrats voted against Israel aid on Tuesday for the 2nd time in recent months.It’s mostly because Democrats are insisting the aid be paired with more Ukraine aid.But it’s also a product of growing fatigue with Israel amid the devastating war in Gaza.
In recent months, Democrats have repeatedly done something that once seemed politically suicidal: block billions of dollars in aid to Israel from reaching the president’s desk.
That’s been driven primarily by the imperative to send more than $60 billion in further aid to Ukraine. Democrats believe it will be essentially impossible to get that aid through both chambers of Congress without attaching it to Israel aid.
But it’s also driven by a sense of frustration among Democrats with how Israel has conducted its war in Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attacks — leading to the deaths of over 27,000 Palestinians — as well as a sense that the Israel aid can wait.
“If anything, the way they’ve conducted this war has made them pariahs in the greater world,” said Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, a former US ambassador.
Beyer said that while he supports sending aid to Israel, particularly for the country’s defensive Iron Dome system, he doesn’t feel a strong sense of urgency to simply send the country more weapons.
“Israel is not about to be taken over by anybody,” said Beyer, contrasting the situation in Israel with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “October 7 was a terrible, evil attack, and I mourn the 1400 dead, but I’m not worried about the existence of the State of Israel.”
Israel aid has long been a a matter of strong bipartisan consensus, with the country receiving $158 billion — more than any other country — over the last several decades. The US has provided $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel every year since fiscal year 2019.
That consensus has been strongly enforced by well-heeled pro-Israel lobbying groups like AIPAC, as well as a wave of political spending against progressive candidates critical of Israel in recent Democratic primary elections.
Yet despite AIPAC’s endorsement of a $11.7 billion Israel aid package on Tuesday, all but 46 House Democrats voted against it. With 14 Republicans joining them, the bill failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority to pass under suspension of House rules. President Joe Biden threatened to veto the legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated he wouldn’t take it up in the Senate.
It was the second time Democrats had mostly rejected a stand-alone Israel aid package in recent months. In November, all but 12 House Democrats voted against a bill that would have provided more than $14 billion to Israel while pairing that aid with equivalent cuts to the Internal Revenue Service that Democrats easily dismissed as unreasonable.
Those two bills were seen as an attempt by House GOP leadership to undermine the Senate’s broader bill to provide funding to both Israel and Ukraine, which has been bogged down for months as Republicans have demanded bipartisan negotiations on border security and immigration.
Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, a former diplomat, said he sees little urgency in approving more Israel aid.
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But with Republicans now rejecting that deal, the Senate is set to vote later on Wednesday to begin debate on the Ukraine and Israel aid bill without the border provisions.
As Tuesday’s bill seemed destined for failure, Republicans quickly moved to blast Democrats as anti-Israel. But those attacks seemed to have less potency than they once would.
Rep. Greg Landsman of Ohio, a Jewish Democrat who voted for the Israel-only aid bill on Tuesday, nonetheless said that the bill was part of a cynical effort to “embarrass Democrats.”
Another factor in Democrats’ rejection of the Israel aid bill was its exclusion of humanitarian aid for Palestinians, which is included in the Senate’s foreign aid bill. As the war has gone on, Democrats have been increasingly under pressure from their own voters to mitigate Palestinian suffering.
J Street, a more left-leaning pro-Israel group, said that Democrats were right to reject the aid without the humanitarian provisions.
“To provide billions in weapons and materials for Israel’s war effort without a dime to meet basic Palestinian humanitarian needs is counter to America’s and Israel’s interests and values,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami.
“It hurts our efforts to bring this war to an end,” Landsman said of the exclusion of Palestinian aid. “Leaving that out is just despicable.”
Beyer even suggested that he might have supported the bill “if this were paired with a significant investment in humanitarian aid for the Palestinians.”
Yet even if the Senate begins debate on the larger Israel and Ukraine aid package on Wednesday, many Democrats will continue to resist the approval of more Israel aid — at least without conditions.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, has said that the US should “not provide another dollar” to Israel amid its “horrific war against the Palestinian people.”
A majority of Democratic senators are also pushing an amendment to the Ukraine and Israel aid bill to force the administration to notify Congress before approving future weapons sales to Israel, and another group of 18 Senate Democrats have an amendment requiring US weapons supplied under the bill to be used in accordance with international law.
And there are some progressive Democrats who are likely to spurn further Israel aid altogether.
“This is not war,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said on the House floor on Tuesday. “This is slaughter.”