House overwhelmingly passes $26 billion aid to Israel, Gaza as tensions with Iran escalate

The House of Representatives showed overwhelming bipartisan support for a $26 billion foreign aid bill providing funding for Israel and humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The bill predictably polarized the most right and left-wing members of Congress; the former are furious over the $9 billion in aid aimed at the State Department for civilians in Gaza, while the latter are opposed to more lethal aid to Israel. 

The measure passed 366 to 58, and the chamber broke into applause after the bill passed.

In a win for the House GOP’s razor-thin majority, the bill also prohibits funding from going toward the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a Palestinian refugee agency alleged to have ties to Hamas.

The bill’s passage is a resounding victory for Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., as he navigates an exceptionally fractured political environment. It’s part of a wider set of bills, totaling roughly $95 billion in foreign aid, that Johnson put on the House floor Saturday. The slate of bills also included aid for Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific as well as a fourth bill containing various national security priorities.

The vote comes as tensions in the Middle East escalate dramatically, particularly between Israel and Iran as Israel fights a war on the Palestinian terror group Hamas. 

Israel carried out limited strikes against Iran on Friday in retaliation for a barrage of airstrikes Tehran fired on Israel, the first such direct attack from the Islamic fundamentalist government. No large-scale damage or casualties were reported in either incident.

The issue of Israel has also been a divisive one for Democrats, as a growing faction of left-wing lawmakers criticize Israel’s invasion in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. 

Republicans, for the most part, have been united in backing Israel and its conservative government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Johnson has put two previous Israel funding bills on the House floor, one that offset the funding with cuts to the IRS, and one which provided the funding without any strings attached. Neither was taken up by the Senate.

This time, however, fiscal conservatives decried the lack of offsets and funding for Gaza.

‘I will always stand with our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel. But I rise today to express my serious concerns with a very flawed supplemental. In November, I supported the first security supplemental for Israel, which was financially paid for and would have provided weapons and equipment for Israel’s fight against Hamas. The cost was offset by rescinding Democrats unprecedented expansion of the IRS. Today, we are considering a vastly different bill, one that is all borrowing another 26 billion of debt with no rescission,’ House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., said during debate on the bill.

‘The legislation also contains 400 million for FEMA, which has nothing to do with supporting Israel, and over $9 billion for humanitarian aid in…Gaza and the West Bank.’

Clyde cited a Heritage Foundation report that said Hamas and other terror groups controlled the flow of all international humanitarian aid operating in Gaza.

‘It is therefore highly likely U.S. taxpayer-funded humanitarian aid to Gaza, including some of the aid in this bill, will again be diverted to support further Hamas attacks against Israel,’ he said.

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