Speaker Johnson Defends Standalone Israel Bill

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Feb 05, 2024 - 05:30 PM

Authored by Joseph Lord via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) defended a recent proposal to provide funding for Israel with no strings attached.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks at a roundtable on the southern border at the U.S. Capitol, on Jan. 31, 2024. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The proposal would grant around $17.6 billion to Israel.

It’s the House’s second Israel-centric proposal since Mr. Johnson took the gavel. An earlier proposal would have granted Israel roughly $14 billion offset by cuts to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

For months, Mr. Johnson has insisted that the Senate needs to take up the bill as approved by the House in exchange for Israel aid.

However, since it passed the House it’s been collecting dust on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) desk, as Senate Democrats considered the IRS offsets a nonstarter.

On Feb. 3, Mr. Johnson announced the standalone Israel proposal to colleagues.

While the move could seem to be a surrender by Mr. Johnson on the IRS offsets, his decision to introduce it could be influenced by another package making its way through the congressional process.

For months, Senate lawmakers led by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), and others have been at work on negotiating the details of a comprehensive national security package. The package would include aid for Israel, additional funding for Ukraine, and border security funding and policies.

However, House Republicans have been clear that, if rumors about the package’s contents are true, it’s a nonstarter in the House.

Specifically, many Republicans have hinged their opposition to the package on the basis of a rumored provision that would allow 5,000 illegal aliens to enter the United States every day—adding up to around 1.8 million illegal aliens entering the country legally per year.

While this might mean a reduction in the short term, Republicans are unwilling to codify any amount of illegal immigration into law.

With the text of the Senate’s national security package expected in the very near future, some see Mr. Johnson’s introduction of a standalone Israel bill as a reactionary move by the lower chamber.

But Mr. Johnson insisted during a Feb. 4 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the move wasn’t calculated to set up a showdown.

We passed the support for [Israel] many months ago, three months ago,” Mr. Johnson said. “Immediately after I became speaker we sent the necessary resources there.”

But he said that the Senate has been “dithering” on moving ahead with helping Israel.

“The Senate has been dithering ever since we cannot wait any more,” Mr. Johnson said. “The reason we are going to send the new Israel package over is because the time is urgent and we have to take care of that responsibility.”

Kristen Welker, the host of NBS’s “Meet the Press,” then noted reports that the Senate was closing in on finalizing its national security package.

She cited comments delivered earlier on the show by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who called the standalone Israel bill a “ploy” by Republicans to kill the Senate package.

She asked, “Did you propose this standalone Israel package to kill this compromise deal in the Senate?

Mr. Johnson said he had not, noting that Republicans in the House have long said that the Senate deal would be dead on arrival.

We’ve made very clear what the requirements of the House were, and that is to solve the problem at the border,” Mr. Johnson replied.

Mr. Johnson and a number of others in the lower chamber have argued that the Senate proposal would not fulfill that end.

Mr. Johnson was dubious that the Senate would release the text of the bill, noting that an imminent release of text has been rumored for weeks.

“The Senate has not been able to come to an agreement,” Mr. Johnson said. “They’ve been suggesting text should be filed maybe today. But we’ve been told the same thing for months now. We’ve been awaiting their action.”

The introduction of the bill, he said, is because the House can no longer wait for the Senate amid escalating tensions in the Middle East.

We cannot wait any longer,” Mr. Johnson said. “The House is willing to lead and the reason we have to take care of this Israel situation right now is because the situation has escalated.”

He cited continued attacks against Israel by the Hamas terrorist group, the recent retaliatory strikes for the death of three U.S. soldiers, and other indicators of mounting conflict in the Middle East.

“The heat has been turned up there,” Mr. Johnson said. “Israel has never been in greater need of our support. And the House is serious about that, I believe will pass this with a wide margin and take care of that responsibility.”

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told The Epoch Times that he hopes the Senate’s deal is “dead on arrival” in the House.

“Anything coming out of the Senate is put together by Chuck Schumer and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell,” he said, referring to the Republican from Kentucky.

The White House, meanwhile, blasted Mr. Johnson’s comments, which a spokesperson called “inherently contradictory and ridiculous.”

Despite Mr. Johnson’s denials, his introduction of a standalone Israel package likely will lead to a showdown between the House and Senate, and further delays for providing Israel with U.S. support.

Recently, Mr. Schumer announced that the Senate would vote on the national security package this week.

With the House also set to take a vote on the standalone Israel bill this week, it’s likely that neither chamber will immediately take up the other’s proposals.

Nathan Worcester contributed to this report.