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Jack Lew

Senate preps Israel action as House remains paralyzed

The Senate is back this evening following a week-long recess, and we’re expecting a flurry of moves related to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

First: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Jack Lew, President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, on Wednesday.

There’s a bipartisan desire to have a Senate-confirmed ambassador in Israel quickly, especially in the wake of Hamas’ terror attacks. Democrats are also ratcheting up pressure over the current backlog of other State Department nominees, including ambassadors in other key Middle East posts and the department’s counterterrorism coordinator.

Not everyone is sold, though. Some Republicans are looking to spotlight what they see as the Biden administration’s weak posture toward Iran. Lew’s role in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is also coming under scrutiny.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Sunday that Lew “is an Iran sympathizer who has no business being our ambassador.”

Here’s more from Cotton’s appearance on “Fox News Sunday”:

Cotton doesn’t serve on the Foreign Relations Committee. But he can still throw a wrench in the confirmation process if Senate leaders seek expedited approval of Lew’s nomination.

The Senate will also hear from top Biden administration officials about the Gaza war this week in a classified setting. An all-senators briefing is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. It will feature Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. C.Q. Brown.

Supplemental funding: Fresh off a weekend visit to Israel, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday he’s directed relevant committee leaders to work with the Biden administration on an aid package “that the Senate can take up as soon as possible, hopefully within the next few weeks.”

The timeline comes as no surprise, especially since the White House is expected to release its supplemental funding request as soon as this week, highlighting the urgency here.

As we’ve reported, this package will likely include new funding for Ukraine and border security too. But several House Republicans have indicated that aid for Israel shouldn’t be mired in those other more partisan fights.

Schumer also referenced the House’s state of chaos, saying that it won’t prevent the Senate from acting.

“We’re not waiting for the House,” Schumer said Sunday from Tel Aviv. “We believe that if the Senate acts in a strong bipartisan way it may indeed improve the chances that the House — even with its current dysfunction — will act.”

Here’s more of what Schumer — the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in U.S. history — said at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday:

Andrew Desiderio

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