On Tuesday, a $17.6 billion bill to help fund Israeli security failed in the U.S. House. Israel has been at war since the savage Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7 took the lives of some 1,200 people. Terrorists kidnapped another 240 people, including Americans, and are holding them hostage in Gaza.
Delaware Valley’s three congressional Democrats, Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, Madeleine Dean, and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Philadelphia/Delaware/Montgomery) voted against the bill. Local Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick voted for it.
The GOP-proposed legislation was a “clean” bill, not attached to any other issues like border security or aid to Ukraine.
In a Feb. 3 letter, House Speaker Michael Johnson (R-La.) said, “Given the Senate’s failure to move appropriate legislation in a timely fashion and the perilous circumstances currently facing Israel, the House will continue to lead. Next week, we will take up and pass a clean, standalone Israel supplemental package. During debate the House and the original House bill was with its offsets. The Senate will no longer have excuses, however misguided, against swift passage of this critical support for our ally.”
Although the vote was 250 to 180, two-thirds approval was needed for passage.
The Senate had formulated a bill that would have included $60 million for Ukraine and $20 million for the U.S. border, although not for items Republicans believe are needed, such as a border wall. Both Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman joined the majority of their fellow Democrats and backed the $118 billion package, but it failed a procedural vote (49-50) on Wednesday.
President Biden had said he would have vetoed the House bill but would have signed the Senate bill had they reached his desk.
Delaware Valley Democrats who helped kill the aid to Israel bill went to great lengths to explain their votes.
“I have always supported Israel’s right to defend itself and will continue to vote accordingly,” said Houlahan. “But I cannot support a politically motivated piece of legislation that falls short on a host of related national security issues, including the needs of Ukraine, Taiwan, innocent Palestinians, and our southern border.”
Houlahan added, “Of course, this vote was not easy. I know Israel needs further support as they seek to root out Hamas’ entrenched control in Gaza. That’s why I’m hopeful that cooler, more bipartisan heads will prevail, and I will soon be able to vote on a supplemental package that supports our ally, Israel, as well as Ukraine, Taiwan, and the many community groups and law enforcement agencies along our southern border.”
Dean explained her no vote: “On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas launched a brutal attack on Israeli civilians that killed more than 1,400 men, women, and children. In the wake of that horrifying attack, I have been unwavering in my belief that Israel has a right to exist, every hostage must be returned, and Hamas must be dislodged — without destroying innocent life.
“I have also repeatedly expressed my deep concern — for the men, women, and children in harm’s way, through no fault of their own, without adequate food, water, shelter, or medical supplies. This legislation contains no humanitarian aid for Gazans or Israelis.
“These grave circumstances demand serious action — but this bill, hastily introduced by House Republican leadership, is, unfortunately, not that. Instead of considering a bipartisan package addressing our border and immigration systems — in addition to our commitments to long-term peace in the Middle East — House Republicans are once again using Israel as a political cudgel,” Dean said.
Scanlon called the GOP bill “a cynical political maneuver.”
“Since the horrific Oct. 7 attack, I have stood with President Biden and House Democrats to strongly support Israel and secure the return of the hostages. Our commitment to Israel’s security and existence has not wavered, and we remain ready to support serious, bipartisan efforts that honor the special relationship between the United States and Israel. H.R. 7217 is neither serious nor bipartisan, having been crafted solely to sow political division and to block the bipartisan security supplemental negotiated by the Senate and the White House.
“America’s national security interests, and those of our close allies, should not be subject to partisan political games. H.R. 7217 is designed to politicize support for Israel while denying military aid to Ukraine and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Gaza. It would undermine the longstanding, bipartisan support for Israel in Congress while harming both America’s and Israel’s national security. Congress must act now to support Israel, surge humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, support Ukraine against Russian aggression, tackle the challenges at the southern border, and strengthen our democratic allies in the Indo-Pacific,” Scanlon said.
Residents took to Facebook to react to this vote.
“These three need to be turned out and replaced by real American First candidates,” wrote Denise Myers.
And Vince Gambone said, “As usual, they’re following orders given by the DNC. Can’t remember any of them ever thinking for themselves.”
On the other hand, Rich Heiland said, “I am fine with her vote. The Republicans have sabotaged aid to Israel, Ukraine, and the border because of their obedience to Trump. Why should Chrissy play along with their politics? We should fund all those areas, as well as assist Palestinian victims in Gaza. We also should fund the border. But, as long as Trump is calling the shots, we won’t. As for the homeless in the U.S., Republicans won’t help them, either.”
And Teri Selleck Majewski added, “I think we need to worry about our homeless first before sending anything to other countries. Are any of them sending anything to us besides their citizens sneaking in?”