U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance calls for separate consideration of Israel aid package
Ohio’s junior U.S. Senator opposes continued support of Ukraine
J.D. Vance, who won Ohio’s GOP Senate primary, calls neoreactionist Curtis Yarvin a friend. Photo Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission.
A week ago, Republican Ohio U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance began pushing his colleagues to separate funding for Israel and Ukraine. Now he and handful of other Republicans have filed standalone legislation providing $14.3 billion in aid for Israel. President Biden is asking for the same amount as part of a broader aid package.
In a press release, Vance argued it’s “essential” to provide support for Israel. “That assistance should not depend on whether we continue to provide aid to Ukraine,” Vance said.
“Misguided attempts to combine them will only delay Israel receiving the support they need,” he added. “Now is not the time to play political games with our most important ally in the Middle East.”
The Biden administration has proposed a roughly $100 billion package that includes aid for both countries as well as money to counter China and harden the U.S. Mexico border. Vance described his bill as a “rejection” of that approach.
How we got here
Vance has been skeptical of supporting Ukraine from the outset and as the conflict has continued, his hostility toward continued financial aid has only grown.
Before Russia’s invasion he said he didn’t care “one way or another” what happened in Ukraine, and after that insisted defending Ukraine was not in our “vital national security interest.” One of Vance’s chief complaints at the time was the U.S. would be better served by hardening the southern border or even deploying troops to fight drug cartels.
Drugs flowing across the border are killing Americans, he reasoned, while the fighting in Ukraine isn’t.
But after Hamas launched a widespread attack on Israel, Vance was quick to insist on American support.
“Israel has a right to self-defense — that includes striking back with overwhelming force against their enemies,” Vance said. “Now as ever we must support our allies in their fight for freedom and security.”
🔥WATCH: @JDVance1 BLASTS uniparty plan to tie Ukraine funding to Israel
“It’s a huge betrayal…Biden and neocons know there is no political will to give Zelensky another $100 billion…They’re trying to take the tragedy that killed over 1,200 Israelis and use that as cover.” pic.twitter.com/gv9gTsksGQ
— Senator Vance Press Office (@SenVancePress) October 17, 2023
In an Oval Office address, President Biden announced he’d ask Congress for an aid package and made his pitch connecting the conflicts.
“Hamas and Putin represent different threats,” Biden said, “but they share this in common: They both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy — completely annihilate it.”
Earlier that day, The Hill ran an op-ed co-written by Vance and the president of the Heritage Foundation criticizing the plan. Vance also began distributing a memo urging senators not to advance combined funding package. He argued the conflicts and our diplomatic relationships with the two countries are fundamentally different.
“Having failed to force through more Ukraine funding by tying it to disaster relief for Americans,” Vance wrote in the op-ed, “Senate leadership is now using the crisis in Israel as a “Plan B” to get the Biden administration’s funding request across the finish line.”
Vance has been one of Congress’s most outspoken opponents to Ukraine funding, but he’s not alone. In recent months that vocal minority has seemingly grown.
Newly tapped House Speaker Mike Johnson has previously voted against ongoing funding, and last week argued aid for Israel and Ukraine should be considered separately. At the same time, Johnson insisted the U.S. would not “abandon” Ukraine.
Mark Levin from the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry argued that would be counterproductive, and it would send the wrong message internationally.
“We think it’s important at this most difficult time in the world, that the United States continues to stand by its allies and friends in both Ukraine and in Israel,” Levin said, “And support the combined effort to send a unified message that the United States is fully backing its allies.”
“There are connections, unfortunately,” Levin added. “The atrocities that Israel experienced three weeks ago, are similar to what Ukraine has experienced at the hands of the Russians over the last 18-plus months.”
Closer to home, George Jaskiw pushed back on Vance’s assertion that defending Ukraine is not in America’s national interest. Jaskiw serves as vice president of the United Ukraine Organizations of Ohio, and while he stressed the organization is nonpartisan, it does advocate for specific policies.
“We are of the firm opinion that, whatever angle you look at, the support for Ukraine in its fight with the with Russian Federation, is in the intrinsic interests of the citizens of Ohio and the United States.”
Like Levin, Jaskiw insisted there is a link between Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and Hamas’s aggression in Israel.
“Yes, Hamas is not Putin,” he explained. “But there is an alignment in the world currently, which demonstrates very clearly that there are hostile forces arrayed together against the United States.”
“Our stance is, Israel deserves full throated support to defend herself against Hamas,” Jaskiw said. “And Ukraine deserves full throated support to defend herself against Russian aggression.”
What’s in the proposals
Vance introduced the standalone funding package for Israel Thursday with U.S. Sens. Roger Marshall, R-KS, Mike Lee, R-UT, and Ted Cruz, R-TX.
The $14.3 billion bill provides funding for the Iron Dome rocket defense system and to replenish domestic stockpiles after sending weapons and ammunition to Israel. The measure also appropriates funding to protect embassies and bring Americans abroad back to the states. The bill explicitly blocks any of that funding going to entities in Gaza or from supporting the Ukraine war effort.
In addition to providing $14.3 billion to Israel, President Biden’s plan would earmark $61.4 billion for Ukraine, $13.6 billion for border security, about $9 billion for humanitarian aid in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine, and $7.4 billion to bolster efforts in the Indo-Pacific.
While Vance unveiled his standalone bill, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, convened a hearing investigating the sources of Hamas’s funding. Brown promised to look into the potential use of cryptocurrencies a few days after the attack. Like Vance, Brown accused the other party of “playing politics” over support funding.
In his prepared remarks, Brown insisted it’s “vital” to U.S. national security get assistance to Israel, “including robust military, economic, and humanitarian aid that is desperately needed for those harmed by Hamas’s terrorism.”
“We must stand with both Ukraine and Israel as they fight back against two of the biggest threats facing the world: Putin and Iranian-backed terrorists like Hamas,” Brown added. “This isn’t a time to play politics — we must stand united with our allies and we must defend American interests.”
Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.
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