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House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)

Israel war throws wrench into Congress’ Ukraine plans

Suddenly, the Ukraine discussion on Capitol Hill is looking a bit different.

Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists has thrown an issue that generally unites Congress — support for the Jewish State — right into the middle of a tense intra-GOP struggle over whether to continue funding Ukraine.

The White House and some Republicans want to link Israel and Ukraine funding together, a proposal that’s already spurring strong opposition from House Republicans.

Israel is reeling from Hamas terror attacks that have left more than 900 Israelis dead and thousands wounded. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a massive mobilization and is preparing for a large-scale war, possibly on several fronts. President Joe Biden has already pledged whatever U.S. help is required for the Israeli campaign, and there’s overwhelming support on Capitol Hill to do so. Biden will speak today from the White House about Israel.

“There’s discussion about putting Israeli funding with Ukraine funding, maybe Taiwan funding and finally border security funding,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told us. “To me, that would be a good package.”

As we first reported, top administration officials told senators on Sunday night they prefer that emergency aid for Israel be wrapped into the broader Ukraine-focused supplemental funding package that the Senate is aiming to pass in the coming months.

Senate Republicans were already insisting that funding for border security would need to be included in any Ukraine package, arguing it could help ease passage in the House. This would create a large package whereby Congress funds Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, the border and potentially more.

“Our southern border ought to be at the top of our security list and Israel at the top of our allies’ list, which will ensure political support” for the overall package, a GOP senator told us.

But there’s strong resistance from House Republicans opposed to more Ukraine funding. These lawmakers argue that any Israeli aid should ride separately rather than get bogged down by the more complicated Ukraine debate.

“Why would the White House even go down this road of tying Ukraine and Israel?” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) said. “Obviously Ukraine is an issue in our conference… Let’s make sure we take care of Israel and give them what they need. We’ll take care of everything else later.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a top member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he supports more Ukraine funding but doesn’t want to tie the issue to support for Israel.

“Look, I don’t want to jam any of my colleagues. I know they feel very strongly about Ukraine,” Cole said. “I do too, in the opposite direction. But I don’t think they ought to be blackmailed into voting for Ukrainian aid that they don’t support in order to help Israel, which I know they do support.”

Those Republicans who back Israel but not Ukraine said they would be incensed if the two were linked. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) reiterated that she “will not vote to fund Ukraine” and that the two issues should be separate.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Monday night that there are no current plans to ask Congress for a security package for Israel. But administration officials did tell senators on Sunday night that they expect to ask for new funding and authorities at some point.

Kirby declined to speculate about how the Israel situation affects the White House’s ongoing Ukraine push on the Hill.

“We believe both are important,” Kirby said.

Schumer in China: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer discussed a range of issues with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing Monday, per a statement his office shared with us.

This included pressing Xi on “huge structural inequities and serious imbalances the U.S. faces in its economic and trade relationship with China,” as well as on the fentanyl crisis in America and China’s efforts to intimidate U.S. business operating there.

On Monday, we covered Schumer’s successful push for China to issue a stronger denunciation of the terror attacks against Israel.

— Andrew Desiderio, Max Cohen and John Bresnahan

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