US Senate Democrats block Republican attempt to help Israel, not Ukraine

The US Capitol building in Washington, United States, August 15, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Worm/File Photo Obtaining licensing rights

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic senators on Tuesday blocked a Republican effort to quickly approve a bill providing emergency aid to Israel that the House of Representatives passed last week but provides no assistance in Ukraine’s war against Russia.

Republican Senator Roger Marshall said: “Time is of the essence and it is essential that the Senate does not delay the delivery of this vital aid to Israel another day.”

Democrats objected, stressing the importance of providing aid to Ukraine and Israel, in addition to humanitarian aid, funding for border security and money to respond to China in the Indo-Pacific region, which was part of a $106 billion funding request that President Joe Biden sent to Congress last month.

They also accused House Republicans of playing politics with the crisis in Israel, delaying aid to the Jewish state by tying support to cutting funding to the Internal Revenue Service, a favorite goal of Republicans, rather than writing a bipartisan bill.

The House bill would provide $14.3 billion to Israel in its response to the deadly Oct. 7 attack by Islamist Hamas militants, but it would also cut the same amount of money from the IRS. The funds will include $4 billion to purchase Israeli “Iron Dome” and “David’s Sling” defense systems to counter short-range missile threats as well as some transfers of equipment from US stockpiles.

“Our allies in Ukraine cannot afford a delay any more than our allies in Israel,” said Senator Patty Murray, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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The House vote was largely along party lines. Democrats described the proposed IRS cuts as a politically motivated “poison pill” that would increase the US budget deficit by reducing tax collections. They also said it was necessary to continue supporting Ukraine.

For the legislation to become law, it must be approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate as well as the Republican-majority House of Representatives, and signed by Biden, a Democrat, to become law. The White House had said that Biden would veto the House bill.

Senate leaders are writing their own supplemental funding bill and hope to introduce it as soon as this week.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle) Editing by Alistair Bell

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Patricia Zengerle has reported from more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and China. An award-winning national security and foreign policy correspondent based in Washington, Patricia has also served as an editor, appeared on NPR, C-Span and elsewhere, spoken at the National Press Club and attended the Hoover Institution Media Roundtable. She received the Edwin M. Hood Prize for Diplomatic Correspondence.

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