New speaker's Israel funding showdown with Biden, Democrats -- and Senate Republicans

The House bill does not include Ukraine aid and slashes IRS funding.

November 1, 2023, 12:05 PM

New House Speaker Mike Johnson, as one of his first moves, is forcing a showdown over emergency aid to Israel.

He's pushing a vote Thursday on a bill that would provide more than $14 billion to the American ally -- but not include $61 billion in aid to Ukraine as President Joe Biden, House and Senate Democrats -- and even many Senate Republicans -- want tied to the same measure.

The bill House Republicans released Mondaywould pay for the Israel aid by slashing the same amount from the Internal Revenue Service, which critics say could affect some taxpayer services and hurt enforcement actions against tax cheaters.

Johnson has set up the showdown as making a choice between what's considered more important. He is set to meet with Senate Republicans Wednesday afternoon to discuss the bill.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson listens during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Capitol on Oct. 26, 2023 in Washington, D.C.
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White House: Bill is 'nonstarter'

The White House is bashing the House GOP bill, calling it a "nonstarter" for tying aid to Israel to cuts in IRS funding -- money already passed under Biden's Inflation Reduction Act.

"Demanding offsets for meeting core national security needs of the United States -- like supporting Israel and defending Ukraine from atrocities and Russian imperialism -- would be a break with the normal, bipartisan process and could have devastating implications for our safety and alliances in the years ahead," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

She said what she called "political games" would set an "unacceptable precedent" for current and future funding and call the U.S. commitment to Israel "into question."

"Threatening to undermine American national security unless House Republicans can help the wealthy and big corporations cheat on their taxes -- which would increase the deficit -- is the definition of backwards," Jean-Pierre wrote.

Senate leaders agree: Israel and Ukraine aid 'intertwined'

Just after House Republicans unveiled the Israel aid bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor to reassert the importance of passing Biden's supplemental aid package that, in addition to aid for Israel and Ukraine, also includes money for Taiwan and southern border security.

"All of these challenges share one thing in common: they directly impact America's national security, America's democratic values, and the international world order that has allowed democracy to take root," Schumer said. "The way forward is exceptionally clear: we must pass the presidents supplemental request."

Schumer slammed the bill as a "partisan and woefully inadequate package" that includes "poison pills" that help tax cheats.

Senator and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the press at the White House in Washington, DC, on Oct. 31, 2023, after meeting with President Joe Biden.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

"The House GOP bill is woefully inadequate and has the hard-right's fingerprints all over it," Schumer said, referring to growing opposition among House Republicans to more Ukraine aid, especially without conditions.

"It's insulting that the hard right is openly trying to exploit the crisis in Israel to try and reward the ultra-rich. The new speaker knows perfectly well that if you want to support Israel, you can't propose legislation that is full of poison pills," he said..

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke next on the floor Tuesday, and he largely echoed Schumer's message, calling the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine "intertwined" and demanding a comprehensive U.S. response.

"So, at the risk of repeating myself, the threats facing America and our allies are serious and they're intertwined. If we ignore that fact, we do so at our own peril," McConnell said.

"I had for a brief moment hoped that the House might be getting their act back together," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said of the package. "But that sounds disastrous to me."

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee played an essential role in crafting the IRS enforcement portion of the Inflation Reduction Act, said using the IRS funds to pay for Israel relief could actually cost the country money by decreasing tax revenue.

"This new proposal is, I think, just horrifying, it's a non-starter, and I'm going to fight it. I'm going to use every tool I have as chairman of the Finance Committee," Wyden said.

House Democrats, and even some Republicans, oppose

At least two House Republicans -- Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky -- said they will not vote for aid to Israel, reducing the already slim number of House GOP votes Johnson can afford to lose and still get the bill passed.

"If Congress sends $14.5 billion to Israel, on average we'll be taking about $100 from every working person in the United States. This will be extracted through inflation and taxes. I'm against it," Massie posted on X.

"I'm voting NO as well. We are $33 TRILLION in debt and our wide-open border is a national security crisis," Greene posted to X.

During a local radio interview Monday, GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said while he supports helping Israel, he argues that the U.S. should not "write another blank check to anyone, including ourselves."

Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, arrives to a Republican caucus meeting at the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Oct. 13, 2023.
Julia Nikhinson/AFP via Getty Images

"I support Israel. But I am not going to continue to go down this road where we bankrupt our country and undermine our very ability to defend ourselves, much less our allies, by continuing to write blank checks," Roy said.

Some House Democrats don't like the proposal, either.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said in a statement, "Support for defending Israel should not come with conditions, be it cutting foreign military financing by 30% or offsetting aid in a time of crucial need. I am deeply disturbed by Speaker Johnson playing political games with Israeli emergency funding, something our nation has never done in a time of crisis."

"We cannot afford to politicize the battle against Hamas and Iran, giving ammunition to anti-Israel extremists around the world," she added.

Johnson: Israel aid is an 'immediate and urgent need'

Speaker Johnson said his plan addresses the "immediate and urgent need" for aid to Israel, he told Fox News' Outnumbered co-host Kayleigh McEnany. The interview, which aired Tuesday, was recorded Monday before the bill text was released.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) gives a brief statement to reporters about the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine after a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Capitol, Oct. 26, 2023 in Washington, DC.
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"My intention and my desire in the first draft of this bill is to take some of the money that has been set aside for building and bulking up the IRS right now," he said to McEnany.

"They have about $67 billion in that fund and we'll try to take the $14.5 [billion] necessary for this immediate and urgent need," Johnson said.

When asked if offsetting the bill will drive Senate Democrats away, Johnson said, "it may, but my intention is to call Leader Schumer over there and have a very direct and thoughtful conversation about this."

"I understand their priority is to bulk up the IRS. But I think, if you put this to the American people, and they weigh the two needs, I think they're going to say standing with Israel and protecting the innocent over there is in our national interest and is a more immediate need than IRS agents," Johnson said.

ABC News' Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report.

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