Biden Requests $106 Billion for Israel, Ukraine, Border
President Joe Biden unveiled a nearly $106 billion request for emergency funds to arm Israel and Ukraine and to reinforce the US-Mexico border, in hopes that a comprehensive package could help speed passage through the fractured political climate on Capitol Hill.
The White House is also asking Congress for $14.3 billion to boost Israel’s defenses following the Oct. 7 attack launched from Gaza that left more than 1,400 people dead, as well as $10 billion for humanitarian efforts that will include sizable assistance for Palestinian civilians.
In a bid to win over Republicans, the White House is requesting $13.6 billion to secure the US-Mexico border and combat fentanyl trafficking, and another $7.4 billion for other national security priorities – including aiding partners in the Indo-Pacific like Taiwan. Biden launched his political effort for the combination package in an Oval Office address Thursday night, calling support of US allies “vital for America’s national security.”
“The world is watching, and the American people rightly expect their leaders to come together and deliver on these priorities,” White House budget director Shalanda Young said in a letter to congressional Republicans. “I urge Congress to address them as part of a comprehensive, bipartisan agreement in the weeks ahead.”
Senate Democrats plan to start work next week on turning the request into a bill that can pass the chamber. In the House the path forward for it is unclear. The chamber is paralyzed, with lawmakers lacking a path toward electing a Speaker or empowering a temporary one.
Even once Republicans move forward, leaders have indicated they prefer to handle Israel aid, which is popular in the party, separately from a package that would tie Ukraine funding to border issues. Jim Jordan, the hardline Ohio Republican currently seeking the Speaker’s gavel, has previously indicated that he opposed additional Ukraine aid altogether, and would want changes to border policy in addition to additional funding for enforcement.
But Jordan’s stance may be softening as he seeks to win over moderate and hawkish Republicans who so far have repeatedly refused to back his candidacy. On Friday morning, Jordan said he would evaluate the president’s request and did not immediately reject the proposal.
“I’ve got to see the package, but we certainly need to help Israel,” he said.
In the Ukraine portion of the request, the White House is asking for additional weapons systems, economic and civilian security assistance, nuclear crisis management, and support for Ukrainian refugees in the United States. Because the weapons and ammunitions sent abroad are largely taken from existing US stockpiles that are then replaced by new equipment made in America, the White House says the president’s request would invest over $50 billion in the US defense industrial base.
“The funding and authorities the Congress previously approved overwhelmingly has nearly run out and we need congressional action to ensure that we can continue to meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs and protect its people while they’re under attack,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Friday.
For Israel, Biden — who traveled to the country earlier this week for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet — requested additional funds for the country’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems, as well as the new laser-based Iron Beam system. The White House says humanitarian assistance would include supplies to Gaza and support for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and surrounding areas.
Polls suggest a division among Americans on how the US should approach its support for Israel. While 76% support humanitarian support for the country, just 48% back sending weapons, according to a CBS News poll released Thursday. A majority of Democrats – 53% — oppose shipping Israel weapons, while 70% of the president’s party back humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.
On the border, Biden’s package includes funding for an additional 1,300 border patrol agents, 100 new inspection machines to detect fentanyl, and 1,600 asylum officers to speed the review of migrants who enter the country illegally and request refugee status.
The request also asks for funding for 1,000 additional law enforcement personnel to investigate cartel drug smuggling, as well as the construction of temporary holding facilities and processing centers, resettlement services, and streamlining the process for those seeking legal pathways to enter the US from Central and South America. And the administration would spend $204 million for the Justice Department to collect the DNA of migrants at the border, in a bid to counter GOP criticism that those entering the country illegally are driving up crime rates.
The White House also proposes reimbursing states and local governments $1.4 billion for shelter services, as well as spending $1.4 billion on international aid. But the proposal does not envision a wholesale overhaul and tightening of border policies or the construction of a border wall, as many Republicans have argued for.
The final component of Biden’s package is aimed at countering Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific, including $2 billion for a World Bank financing initiative that the White House sees as a competitor to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative and $2 billion for the State Department’s foreign military financing program as well as money to boost security at US embassies in the Middle East.
The package also includes $3.4 billion for the submarine industrial base, which Young said would “increase our ability to build and sustain attack submarines.”
The Biden administration had received pressure from lawmakers to make more investments in the US submarine base to be able to support, among other things, the trilateral defense deal with Australia and the United Kingdom, known as AUKUS. The added funds may aid in allowing congressional authorizations needed for the deal to go forward.
“With half of the requested security resources aimed at replenishing the United States’ military stocks, honoring this request would also create jobs and boost our economy,” said Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.