President Joe Biden requested more than $100 billion for a range of domestic and international issues, but that proposition has taken criticism and has little chance of moving forward unless the House of Representatives elects a speaker amenable to the idea.
Biden made the request in a speech Friday, asking for about $105 billion in funding. According to the White House, Biden’s request includes $61 billion for Ukraine in its war against Russia, $14 billion for U.S. immigration problems, and about $14 billion for Israel, which is locked in a war with the terrorist group, Hamas.
“In Israel, we must make sure that they have what they need to protect their people today and always,” Biden said in his address.
The request also includes $10 billion for humanitarian aid in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine and elsewhere as well as $2 billion for nations in the Indo-Pacific region, most notably Taiwan, which national security experts say could be invaded by China at any time.
That request came the same day that House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, lost his nomination to be speaker of the House, sending Republicans back to square one in their search for a leader and leaving the legislative chamber impotent for the foreseeable future.
Biden visited Israel last week to show his support for Israel’s “right to defend itself.” He has cautioned Israel against occupying Gaza, the small region where Hamas launched its attacks into Israel, reportedly killing more than 1,400 and taking dozens of hostages.
Democrats were quick to back Biden and his request.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., joined in on X as well to back Biden, saying “it’s our duty to support Ukraine and Israel as they fight to defend their democracies.”
House Republicans have been without a speaker for over two weeks after Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., filed a motion to vacate former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., from the spot. The Republicans most likely to replace McCarthy have failed for one reason or another since then, unable to secure the needed 217 votes.
On Sunday, nine new Republicans threw their hat in the ring to be speaker, but they all have less political clout, and likely less chance of successs, than the Republicans who already failed before them.
Without a speaker, Biden’s funding request cannot go anywhere, though it remains unclear if there is enough Republican support for more Ukraine funding to pass this spending request.
Meanwhile, lawmakers face another partial government shutdown deadline in the middle of November.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., backed Biden’s spending request and took a shot at Republicans for failing to select a speaker.
“In his Oval Office address, the President strongly reiterated America’s commitment to the people of Israel and the people of Ukraine as they defend their democracies. Congress must swiftly consider the President’s request for supplemental national security funding, including humanitarian assistance for the people of Gaza,” Pelosi said in a statement. “It is long overdue for House Republicans to bring the House to order so we can honor this responsibility.”
Some Republicans were critical of the prioritization in Biden’s request.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., wrote on X that Israel should be the focus of the funding. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., released a statement calling Biden’s request “dead on arrival.”
“President Biden’s slush fund proposal is dead on arrival, just like his budgets,” Cotton said. “We will not spend, for example, $3.5 billion to address the ‘potential needs of Gazans,’ essentially functioning as a resupply line for Hamas terrorists.”
He went on to criticize other components of Biden’s request.
“We will also not spend $11.8 billion to fund the Ukrainian government’s own non-war spending, such as funding retirement pensions for Ukrainian government employees,” Cotton said. “Nor will we spend $4.7 billion for housing, transportation, and ‘services’ for illegal aliens in the United States rather than deporting them.”
Budget experts, meanwhile, have repeatedly raised the alarm about increased federal debt spending.
“Policymakers should also avoid turning an emergency supplemental bill into a grab-bag of new priorities,” Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Emergency funding should be for provisions that are temporary, necessary, sudden, urgent, and unforeseen. Policies that don’t meet these criteria should be considered through the regular process and subject to normal budget rules.”
MacGuineas was critical of the ongoing federal spending in her reaction to Biden’s speech. The CRFB has pointed out that the trust funds for Medicare, Social Security and highways are facing insolvency and that interest on the national debt is on pace to be the biggest expense for the federal government.
“Ultimately, failing to address our high and rising debt will leave us far less capable of responding to new emergencies while presenting growing economic and national security risks,” MacGuineas said. “As Congress works to enact emergency appropriations, they should also begin the process of reining in our unsustainably rising debt.”
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