Republican Senators Demand Changes to Aid Package for Ukraine and Israel – WSJ

Wednesday, 25 October 2023

Senate Republicans are seeking to amend the Biden administration's request for US$106 billion in emergency funds to aid Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and manage the flow of migrants at the US border.

As The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, the Biden administration's proposal includes about US$61 billion for Ukraine, another US$14 billion for Israel to cover security needs, and about US$9 billion for humanitarian aid to both theatres of the conflict. It also includes about US$2 billion for security assistance in the Indo-Pacific region and $14 billion for the border, which would partially fund migrants' needs.

There is broad bipartisan support in Congress for aid to Israel. However, some Republicans are sceptical of new funding for Ukraine, whereas others would prefer to provide weapons rather than humanitarian aid or direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government.

The two sides also disagree on the response to illegal immigration, with the Republicans pushing for tighter border controls.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he generally supports the administration's approach but has clearly shown that he plans to push for some changes. Last week, Senator Tom Cotton, a close ally of McConnell's, called the administration's proposal "dead on arrival". The senator added that Senate Republicans would take the lead in drafting an alternative funding bill, laying out some of the main concerns of the Republicans: "We will not spend, for example, $3.5 billion to address the ‘potential needs of Gazans’" – money that, as he said, might end up in the hands of Hamas. Cotton also noted he would not support US$11.8 billion in non-war-related spending by the Ukrainian government, as well as US$4.7 billion for housing, transport and services for detained immigrants in the US, maintaining that the money should instead be spent on deportations.

The draft law requires bipartisan support to get the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Democrat-controlled Senate, meaning that at least nine Republicans would have to support it as long as 51 Democrat senators vote in favour.

Some Republicans want aid to Israel to be separated from assistance to Ukraine, given that the latter has become politically unpopular with their party's voters and some Republican lawmakers.

"The Senate needs to vote on aid for Israel now—by itself," said Senator Rick Scott on Tuesday. "Everyone in Washington knows what the president has proposed will never pass the House."

Even before the White House officially announced the package late last week, a group of nine Senate Republicans signed a letter to McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer requesting that any additional package separate funding for Israel from funding for Ukraine.

In his address to the nation on 19 October, US President Joe Biden called this moment in history an "inflection point", a battle between the world's democracies and autocracies.

Biden condemned the actions of Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech in the Oval Office on Thursday evening, saying that the attacks on Israel and the invasion of Ukraine have common motives.

On Friday, 20 October, Biden sent an "urgent budget request" to Congress to help support Israel and Ukraine.

Some 20.3 million people watched the US President's prime-time speech on Thursday night, in which he spoke about aid for Israel and Ukraine during the war.

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