President Joe Biden on Tuesday said his administration would ask Congress to fund security assistance for Israel, days after the start of a bloody conflict that has already claimed more than 1,000 lives.
“When Congress returns, we’re going to ask them to take urgent action to fund the national security requirements of our critical partners,” he said. “This is not about party or politics. It’s about the security of our world.”
The remarks come as lawmakers from both parties weigh supplemental funding for Israel.
Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that the Senate was working on a supplemental package. Senate Appropriations Committee staff is in contact with the Pentagon about what Israel may need, according to a source familiar with the considerations.
“We’re working behind the scenes to put together that supplemental package,” Murphy said. “We’re trying to figure out a way to get nominees and military promotions unlocked and then we’ll go straight to that work when we reconvene next Monday.”
Separately, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers led by Reps. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., introduced a draft bill on Tuesday to provide $2 billion in emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.
However, a possible aid package could run up against existing debates over aid for Ukraine, with Congress divided over whether Kyiv should receive more security assistance.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters Monday that lawmakers and the administration had discussed a broader aid package focusing on Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and U.S. border security.
McCaul said such legislation would be a “good package” but that the House could not do anything without a confirmed speaker in place.
But some Republicans suggested that Ukraine and Israel aid should not be tied, arguing that ongoing security assistance for Kyiv is distracting the U.S. from a more pressing need to aid Israel.
“Aid to Israel needs to be focused on Israel,” tweeted Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Lumping support with Ukraine funding needlessly holds up aid to our most important ally in their hour of need.”
And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., posted Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “any funding for Ukraine should be redirected to Israel immediately.”
The Biden administration in August requested $24.1 billion in assistance for Ukraine; it was left out of a stopgap measure signed at the end of September to keep the government open through Nov. 17.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday that the administration will make a separate request for supplemental aid to Israel. The White House isn’t weighing in on whether Ukraine aid should be part of the same package, Sullivan said.
The Biden administration is focusing on both priorities, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in separate comments Monday.
The U.S. is “a large enough, big enough, economically viable and vibrant enough country to be able to support both,” he told reporters.
Kirby added that a tranche of assistance funded under the existing security partnership with Israel is already on its way. A senior Defense Department official said Monday that assistance includes munitions and air defense.
“We fully expect that there will be additional requests for security assistance from Israel as they continue to expend munitions in this fight,” Kirby said. “And we will stay in lockstep with them, making sure that we’re filling their needs as best we can and as fast as we can.”
Mary Ellen McIntire, Niels Lesniewski and Aidan Quigley contributed to this report.