House approves Israel aid in first major test of Johnson’s speakership

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(WASHINGTON) — The House on Thursday approved a Republican-led aid package to Israel in what was the first major test of Rep. Mike Johnson’s speakership.

The bill passed 226-196, with 12 Democrats voting for it and two Republicans voting against. It faces little chance of becoming law, however, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer already saying he won’t take it up and the White House threatening to veto it.

The legislation would provide $14.3 billion to Israel as it expands its military operations in Gaza following the unprecedented Hamas terror attack in early October.

In a statement, Johnson urged swift passage. “This is necessary and critical assistance as Israel fights for its right to exist,” he said.

“With antisemitism on the rise both domestically and abroad, it’s imperative that the U.S. sends a message to the world that threats made against Israel and the Jewish people will be met with strong opposition,” he said.

Included in the potential funding is $4 billion for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems — but no humanitarian aid for Gaza, the Hamas-controlled territory now at the center of Israel’s assault, where the U.N. and outside groups have warned of “crisis” for civilians if they are not better protected from the fighting.

The measure has drawn sharp opposition from Democrats over its lack of Ukraine funding and its provision to pay for the Israel aid by slashing the Internal Revenue Service budget by the same amount.

Republican leaders, who were consumed for much of October by a fractious leadership contest that ended with Johnson becoming speaker, had projected confidence the aid bill would pass the House as they entered their closed-door conference meeting earlier Thursday.

“Israel doesn’t need a cease-fire,” Johnson said at a press conference, swiping at the calls for that from some Democrats. “It needs its allies to cease with the politics and deliver support now.”

“House Republicans plan to do that,” he continued. “We’re going to do it in short order and provide Israel the aid it needs to defend itself against hostages and eradicate Hamas, which is a mission that must be accomplished.”

With extremely tight margins in the House, the GOP could only afford to lose a handful of votes, as House Democratic leaders had encouraged their caucus to vote against the bill.

Ultimately, conservative hard-liners Reps. Thomas Massie and Marjorie Taylor Greene voted against the bill, as they had said they would. The 12 Democrats who voted for it included several Jewish members.

Pressed on the few Republicans who were publicly opposed, Johnson said ahead of the vote that he had “great discussions” with them and he was “optimistic” about the bill’s odds.

Others, however, took issue with how the package was structured.

“Israel needed to see people on both sides supporting them in their time of need,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., told reporters after the vote.

While Moskowitz voted yes, he slammed Johnson for “playing politics” with the bill by including cuts to IRS funding — especially on an issue that could have garnered broad bipartisan support.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday morning, Schumer likewise lambasted the aid legislation.

“The Senate will not be considering this deeply flawed proposal from the House GOP and instead we will work together on our own bipartisan emergency aid package that includes aid to Israel, Ukraine, competition with the Chinese government and humanitarian aid for Gaza — so much needed,” Schumer said.

The White House has threatened that President Joe Biden will block the package if it lands on his desk.

“This bill would break with the normal, bipartisan approach to providing emergency national security assistance by conditioning funding on offsets, politicizing aid to Israel, and treating Israel differently from our other allies and partners,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a lengthy statement on Wednesday.

Johnson has said Israel aid needs to be handled in a “responsible manner,” pointing to the exploding national debt.

Like Moskowitz, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., has specifically taken aim at Republicans cutting IRS funding as part of the package — a move the Congressional Budget Office said would add $12.5 billion to the deficit in the next decade.

“The way you are handling legislation today is an international embarrassment for our country,” McGovern said of Republicans in a speech on the House floor before the vote.

Johnson defended his approach, telling reporters, “If Democrats in the Senate or the House or anywhere else wants to argue that hiring more IRS agents is more important than standing with Israel in this moment, I’m ready to have that debate.”

He said Ukraine aid would come next, though a growing number of House Republicans have expressed opposition to supplying the war-torn nation with more funding as it continues to stave off Russia’s invasion.

Johnson said House Republicans will pair it with border security provisions to try to get it across the finish line.

ABC News’ Allison Pecorin and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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