House Republicans on Thursday passed their bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel and offset that spending with cuts to IRS funding enacted as part of Democrats’ signature 2022 climate, health and tax law.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Democrats say it is dead on arrival. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that his chamber won’t take up the House bill, which he called “unserious and woefully inadequate.” President Joe Biden has also threatened to veto the bill should it make it to his desk. He is seeking a $106 billion package that combined aid to Israel with additional funding for Ukraine, humanitarian assistance, border security and needs in the Indo-Pacific region.
Democrats broadly support aid to Israel but they voted against the House Republican plan because they object to the IRS cuts and to the exclusion of the other emergency funding. They also warn that the bill would set a bad precedent by looking to offset spending on urgent national security measures.
Schumer criticized Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson for politicizing the aid package. “He insists that emergency funding for Israel has to be paid for, when we usually don’t pay for emergency funding,” Schumer said Thursday. “But the hypocrisy here is that by cutting funding to go after tax cheats, he will actually explode the deficit by billions and billions of dollars. What a joke. … It still mystifies me that at a moment when the world is in crisis – at a time when we need to help Israel to respond to Hamas – the House GOP thought it was a good idea to tie Israel aid to a hard right proposal that will raise the deficit and is totally, totally partisan, all the while helping wealthy tax cheats get away scot free.”
Johnson told reporters earlier in the day that lawmakers could not afford to waste time in delivering aid to Israel, and he called his plan fiscally responsible, arguing that Republicans were working “to ensure responsible spending and reduce the size of the federal government” and that the IRS funding “was the easiest and largest pile of money that’s sitting there” to pay for the emergency spending. He has dismissed the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that the cuts to IRS funding would result in an additional $12.5 billion in deficits over 10 years due to reduced tax enforcement. "If Democrats in the Senate or the House or anyone else want to argue that hiring more IRS agents is more important than standing with Israel in this minute, I’m ready to have that debate," he told reporters.
The bottom line: The Senate appears likely to pass its plan, which would then pose a potentially divisive test for Johnson, who has tried to emphasize Republican Party unity in his first days in office following weeks of intraparty fighting. The clash over aid could also dovetail with a November 17 deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown of federal agencies. The foreign aid package reportedly could end up attached to a stopgap measure extending federal funding.