US House okays $14.5B in military aid for Israel as Biden threatens veto

A section of Israeli troops during ground operation in Gaza. [Xinhua]

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved $14.5 billion in military aid for Israel in its war against the militant group Hamas, but President Joe Biden threatened to veto the measure because of the conditions attached to it and its failure to address other administration requests.

New House Speaker Mike Johnson took an atypical approach to the aid package by requiring the emergency aid to be offset by cuts to government spending elsewhere — a strategy that turned the vote into one that largely divided the House along party lines.

The bill, which passed 226 to 196, is Republican Johnson’s first major legislative action since he became speaker last week. Johnson, who is from the Southern U.S. state of Louisiana, said the bill would help Israel “while we also work to ensure responsible spending and reduce the size of the federal government.”

The GOP bill did not include any humanitarian aid for Gaza.

Republican Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia said he was “so thankful there is no humanitarian aid,” which he argued could end up with Hamas.

Biden has said he would veto the bill, and Democrats have said the bill doesn’t stand a chance in the Senate.

The White House said Johnson’s approach would set a risky precedent and “fails to meet the urgency of the moment.” The White House lambasted the lack of humanitarian aid for Gaza in the bill, which also failed to provide military assistance to Ukraine or Taiwan.

“This bill would break with the normal, bipartisan approach to providing emergency national security assistance,” the White House said. It also said the Republican approach “would have devastating implications for our safety and alliances in the years ahead.”

The plan to pay for the aid would involve cutting billions from the Internal Revenue Service that Democrats approved last year and Biden signed into law. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that approach would ultimately cost the federal government $12 billion because of the lost revenue from taxes.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the “stunningly unserious” bill wouldn't get through the Senate.

Biden asked Congress to approve a more general $106 billion emergency spending package that would include funding for Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine and humanitarian aid. Schumer, of New York, said the Senate would consider a bipartisan bill addressing those concerns.