House passes Israel supplemental aid bill, poised for Senate approval
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2023 Annual Leadership Summit in Las Vegas. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

“The overwhelming bipartisan support for Israel is a striking testament to the fact that Israel has no closer ally than America, and America has no closer ally than Israel,” stated the Israeli president.

By Mike Wagenheim

(JNS) American Jewish and pro-Israel groups lauded Saturday’s passage of a long-stalled Israel supplemental aid bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Under the threat of losing his job from his right flank, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) shepherded the bill—part of a larger foreign aid and national security package—to a successful 366-58 vote, with 37 Democrats and 21 Republicans opposing.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, includes $17 billion in defense aid to Israel, along with $9 billion for humanitarian aid to Gazans and others involved in conflicts around the world.

Of that funding, $4 billion would be allocated for the replenishments of Israel’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems, $1.2 billion for the Iron Beam defense system, which uses laser technology to neutralize short-range rockets, and $3.5 billion for the purchase of advanced weapons systems and services.

Another $1 billion would go to enhancing weapons production and $2.4 billion to the Pentagon to account for the high cost of its protective operations in the region since Oct. 7.

An additional $400 million was included in the package for the domestic Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which supports nonprofit organizations—notably synagogues, Jewish community centers and other Jewish facilities—with bolstering protection.

The bill will also prohibit funds going to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, the scandal-plagued organization that provides aid and social services to Palestinians.

“This package will deliver critical support to Israel and Ukraine; provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Gaza, Sudan, Haiti and other locations impacted by conflicts and natural disasters around the world; and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” stated U.S. President Joe Biden. 

“It comes at a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran, and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia,” Biden added. “I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Israel Allies Caucus, said during debates on the House floor: “The United States must make absolutely clear in both word and deed, not just today, but every day—and without equivocation—that we stand with Israel.”

“Both defensive weapons systems like Iron Dome and David’s Sling and all necessary offensive military capabilities must be conveyed without delay to Israel for as long as it takes to defeat Hamas and to deter Iran, Hezbollah, and other radical Islamists,” he said. 

“Of significance, H.R.8034 prohibits aid to Gaza from flowing through UNRWA, an antisemitic disgraceful organization that teaches Palestinian children to hate Jews and glorifies suicidal martyrdom and the evisceration of Israel as a state,” he added. 

The House has worked its will.

We gave our members a voice, provided them with a better process, and ultimately sent a much better policy to the Senate. pic.twitter.com/lV67kD2oae— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) April 20, 2024

‘Bipartisan majority’

“The House today sent a powerful and concrete message that America stands with our ally Israel as it battles Iranian aggression and its terrorist proxies,” the AIPAC lobby said in a statement.

“We commend the strong bipartisan majority” that passed the bill, AIPAC said, praising the leadership of Johnson and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). “We urge the Senate to expeditiously act to ensure that this urgent legislation is sent to the president to be signed into law,” it said.

Leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition said that the “historic importance of this moment cannot be overstated.”

“RJC applauds the members of both parties who found a way to work together to produce results, strengthening the security of the United States and our essential security partners around the world,” it stated, thanking Johnson, “who put it all on the line to do what’s right for America and our allies.”

National Security legislation that supports democracy and freedom has passed the House overwhelmingly.

We will stand with Ukraine until victory is won. pic.twitter.com/ssmjzoMnol— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) April 20, 2024

‘We will remember’

Johnson has faced credible threats to his speakership for leading the effort to package Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan aid bills, all of which passed the House on Saturday. 

He will likely face a motion to vacate shortly, which would put his speakership up for a vote. If Democrats don’t back him, a handful of Republicans could oust him.

Matt Brooks, the CEO of the RJC, was particularly critical of Republicans who voted against the Israel aid bill. “Here’s my message to the GOP members below who voted ‘No’ on today’s emergency aid package. You cannot vote ‘No’ on this and ever call yourselves pro-Israel again,” he wrote. “Full stop.”

“You’ve voted to abandon our most critical ally precisely when it’s most needed,” he added. “We will remember.”

Leaders of Christians United For Israel also applauded the House.

“Advancing this security assistance moves us one step closer to ensuring the will of the American people becomes the policy of the United States and Israel has the vital support she needs to defeat our common enemies,” said Pastor John Hagee, CUFI founder and chairman.

“Some leaders win to govern. Others govern to win,” wrote Sandra Parker, chair of CUFI Action Fund. “What Speaker Johnson has achieved this week proves he is the former. That the speaker was able to build bipartisan consensus should be applauded, not condemned.”

Parker was also critical of the House members who voted against the bill.

“Our message to Congress remains unchanged: Each vote against this aid was a vote against the national security interests of the United States, against our allies, and was no doubt applauded by the world’s tyrants,” she wrote.

Democratic Majority For Israel, which issued a rare joint release last week with the RJC calling for the bill’s passage, issued a statement after the vote.

“Thanks to support from Democrats on the House Rules Committee, whose votes were needed to bring the bill to the House Floor—and to support from Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and the vast majority of House Democrats—Israel is set to receive more than $26 billion in critical military aid,” said Mark Mellman, CEO of the DMFI.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it has the support of both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“The Senate stands ready to take the next step on the national security supplemental. The House at long last approved funding for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific and humanitarian assistance,” Schumer wrote. “The Senate locked in an agreement to finish the work with the first vote on Tuesday.”

“On behalf of the entire Israeli people, I send my deepest thanks and appreciation to the U.S. Congress, President Biden, Speaker Johnson and Rep. Jeffries and all the American people,” stated Isaac Herzog, the Israeli president.

“The overwhelming bipartisan support for Israel is a striking testament to the fact that Israel has no closer ally than America, and America has no closer ally than Israel,” Herzog added.

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