A bill that would give $17.6bn in military aid to Israel was defeated in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, as Democrats argued for a broader package that would also include support for Ukraine, border security and humanitarian aid.
The bill, sponsored by Republicans, failed to get the two-thirds majority required for approval, with a vote of 250 to 180.
Critics said the bill was a political maneuver by Republicans to divert attention from their resistance to a $118bn Senate bill that would combine immigration reform and border security funding with emergency assistance for Ukraine, Israel and other allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Senate bill was declared “dead on arrival” by the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, before it was even introduced. Senate Republican leaders also said on Tuesday they did not expect the bill to pass.
Representative Rosa DeLauro, the leading Democrat on the House appropriations committee, opposed the Israel-only bill, saying it would “accomplish nothing and delay aid getting out to our allies and providing humanitarian relief.”
She said: “Our allies are facing existential threats and our friends and foes around the globe are watching, waiting to see how America will respond.”
But the Israel-only bill was rejected by 167 Democrats, who were unhappy that the bill seemed to undermine the larger package, which was the result of months of bipartisan talks in the Senate.
Biden had also threatened to veto the bill, which did not have any budgetary offsets that some conservatives wanted for any new spending.
The supporters of the Israel-only bill said it was not a political stunt, but a necessary move to help Israel, which has strong bipartisan backing in Congress, as it deals with the aftermath of the 7 October attacks by Hamas.
Johnson had previously passed a bill in the House that would give $14.3bn to Israel, but it also had deep cuts to the Internal Revenue Service, which Biden rejected.
The House Freedom caucus, a group of hardline conservatives, accused Johnson of “surrendering” to pressure for a bigger package without cuts.
Biden’s Office of Management and Budget said the Republican bill was a “ploy” that would jeopardize the US border security and the support for Ukraine against Russian aggression, while denying humanitarian aid to Palestinians affected by the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Johnson responded at a news conference on Tuesday that Biden’s veto threat was “outrageous and shameful”, saying he would deny support for Israel “in their hour of greatest need”.
The House Democratic leaders denounced the bill as a “nakedly obvious and cynical attempt” to sabotage the larger package, which would link the Israel aid to $60bn for Ukraine and $20bn for US border security, but is stuck in Congress.
The House Democratic minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, said in a letter to his colleagues: “Unfortunately, the standalone legislation introduced by House Republicans over the weekend, at the 11th hour without notice or consultation, is not being offered in good faith.”