The U.S. House passed a bipartisan $14.3 billion bill giving aid to war-torn Israel Thursday night. It was the opening salvo in the legislative process to send military support to the Jewish state in the wake of the deadly Oct. 7 terror attack by the Hamas government of neighboring Gaza.
While a dozen Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the legislation, none of Pennsylvania’s Democrats backed the Israel aid bill.
Two Republicans, Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia joined the Democratic majority in opposing the bill.
The House floor broke out in cheers after the 226-196 vote was announced.
The White House said President Joe Biden will veto the Israel aid bill if it reaches his desk. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate won’t take up the bill. Democrats object to the fact that the measure would pay for the Israel aid not by borrowing additional money, but by shifting money given to the IRS under the Inflation Reduction Act. Instead, Biden and his allies want Congress to pass a massive $106 billion foreign aid package that also includes money for Ukraine and Taiwan.
“I hope they’re bluffing,” Rep. Nick LaLota (R., N.Y.) said of Democrats. “I think we have to support Israel at all costs.”
The vote is viewed as a win for newly-selected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.), an obscure member of Congress who got the job in the aftermath of the vote to vacate the chair engineered by fellow Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz. Only eight Republicans supported Gaetz, but every Democrat — including the three who represent the Delaware Valley suburbs — backed Gaetz’s move to oust former Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.)
Two of those three, Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan, voted against the Israel aid funding on Thursday. The third, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, declined to vote at all.
She did not respond to requests for comment from DVJournal.
The straightforward bill would move money from the IRS, meant to focus on more audits of American taxpayers. Israel would use that cash for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling defense systems and the development of the Iron Beam defense system. Other cash would be used to buy weapons to fight Hamas.
“If Democrats in the Senate or the House — or anyone else, anywhere else — want to argue that hiring more IRS agents is more important than standing with Israel in this moment, I’m ready to have that debate,” Johnson said before the vote. “But I did not attach that for political purposes.”
Houlahan, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, says she voted no after “very careful deliberation.”
“This bill does not contain any humanitarian support at all,” she said in a statement. Houlahan complained the House tends to combine humanitarian and military aid before pivoting to a desire for a broader aid bill. “There is no consideration for the needs of Ukraine, Taiwan, nor our own domestic borders. The president requested that our vote be on all of these issues. I worry that not connecting these obviously related threats will result in some going completely unaddressed and unfunded, which will result in a more dangerous world, and more danger for Americans.”
Johnson has said that Ukraine aid and securing the U.S. border will be tied together and put up for a vote in the near future. He has said there was no plan “to abandon” Ukraine, and he met with Biden on Thursday to discuss the issue.
Dean did not respond to requests for comment about her vote, but she did post about it on social media.
“Speaker Johnson’s attempt to strip the IRS of some of its funding would not only increase the deficit — but it would let the wealthy get away with not paying their taxes,” said Dean on Facebook. “This is an unserious proposal.”
Dean also urged Israel to take a “humanitarian pause” in its military response to the attack from Gaza. “We must protect the lives of Palestinian civilians, Gazans – half of whom are children – who have no affiliation with Hamas.”
The phrase “humanitarian pause” is sometimes used to mean a ceasefire, which is the position of many of Dean’s fellow progressives in Congress. Supporters of Israel say calls for a ceasefire are, in fact, a call for Israel to surrender its efforts to eradicate Hamas.
Pennsylvania Democrats rejected the aid to Israel the same day as media reports of a video in which Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told a Lebanese news outlet that his organization is determined to repeat the Oct. 7 attack “again and again.”
“We must remove that country,” Hamad said. “We must teach Israel a lesson, and we will do this again and again. The Al-Aqsa Flood is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth. Because we have the determination…to fight.”